After my last couple posts were about the revolutions going on in North Africa and the Middle East, I was really hoping to be able to muse about something a little more positive.  But after looking through some of the photos of the damage in Christchurch, New Zealand from Monday's 6.3 quake, I thought this might be a good time to remind the rest of the people around the Pacific Rim (as well as other seismic-prone areas) to make sure you're prepared for an earthquake near you.

The Seattle area had the 6.8 Nisqually quake happen back on February 28, 2001 and survived relatively unscathed.  Even Christchurch had a 7.1-magnitude quake back in September without casualties before the aftershock that occurred closer to the city yesterday further damaging and collapsing already weakened buildings.  It's easy to put off quakes in Alaska or even the one in Haiti as "not in my neighborhood" type events, but there will come a time along the West Coast of the U.S. where a large earthquake will do heavy damage to a lot of structures and a lot of people will be hurt and killed.  I feel like I'm being pessimistic, but it really is just being realistic in this case: I'm a structural engineer who has seen her fair share of inadequately designed buildings and heard a fair amount from more experienced engineers than I about all of the weaknesses that older - and sometimes not even all that old - buildings have.

So what do we do to get ready?  In King County, Washington - where Seattle is located - they've come up with a 3 Days, 3 Ways campaign for people to be prepared for natural disasters; FEMA has a similar site setup; and the Red Cross has a few resources for getting a disaster supply kit together, including a first aid kit.  The FEMA site even has a family list of supplies in their kids readiness section.

I think most people have some awareness of what they should have - it's really just a matter of finding a way to collect and store the items.  My dad actually built a little shed on the side of our house (I grew up in Southern California), but I actually got my family a Rubbermaid shed that holds most of our emergency kit/camping gear.  It sits outside our garage in the back yard and is fairly convenient for when we need to grab a sleeping bag, but outside enough that if something happened to our house, we'd still be able to access it without any issues.

Basically, even if it's just a couple flashlights and cans of food (with a can opener!), please learn from the tragedies of others to better prepare yourself.  I know I'm not as prepared as I could be, but I'm working on it - just like our emergency fund in the bank with 3-6 months of expenses!


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