Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Preparing for the "Big One" - one families impromptu earthquake drill

I have looked at earthquakes and this area a couple of times before mainly because Victoria looks so much like Christchurch in New Zealand and then because our coming big quake could be the size of Sendai or larger.  Since it is emergency preparedness week I thought I would do an impromptu earthquake drill.   At 6:11 pm the "Big One" hit.

The scenario was that Sheila was out with Max and that I was knocked unconscious.   I wanted to see how much the boys could figure out on their own and also observe where we are not prepared.   I have thought about this before and thought we were well prepared, it turns out we are not.

The boys know to immediately get under the dining room table - if it gets crushed that means the house completely collapsed.   They also made sure to put me under the table to protect me while I am unconscious to ensure I was safe if there were more after shocks and things falling down.

We have a lot of food in the house, but a lot of it is stored in glass jars or on shelves that will empty in a major earthquake - we need to rethink our food or simply have a separate earthquake supply.  Our kitchen would be an unholy mess, though I suspect more than enough food for a month could be salvaged, but most of that food requires water, not enough water and it really is not that useful.

Water is an issue - I had always thought we would be OK, but in the scenario the toilets broke and the hot water tank leaked.   All that we had was the water in canned drinks and the rain barrels outside, but that water requires sterilization for consumption.  It would be a waste of limited fuel to boil water.   I bought some 10 litre water jugs today, they were $3.98 at the Real Canadian Wholesale Store.   I am going to buy some more over the next few times I go in.

We have an agreed out of province point of contact - problem is that no one knows the number and all the bits of paper with it on it are missing.   So much for that idea being at all useful.   We will all have it memorized or on laminated cards in the next day or two.   The next problem - what phones will be working?   certainly our land line will not work because the hand sets require electrical power.   I think I will buy a cheap non electrical phone as a back up.  I also wonder if our Shaw phone will do as well as the traditional Telus phone?   I also have no idea how well the mobile phone network will be working.

We would also have trouble cooking as we have very limited propane at home at the moment.   We need to have at least one full 20 lb tank in reserve at all times and we should have dozen or so of the small 1 lb ones for the Coleman.   I have known for months that we do not have enough propane on hand but I have procrastinated.

Radios - Daniel knew his radio took a nine volt battery and he found one.   It seems most clock radios take nine volt batteries, we need to make sure there is a supply on hand in the house.   A hand cranked radio also makes sense.

Our hot water tank is heated with natural gas, none of us know where you turn off the gas.   We need to fix that so that everyone knows how to deal with it.

We have enough flashlights, candles and matches that we should be ok.   Two of the flashlights are hand cranked.

I realized that the house is going to filled with broken glass and a lot of that will be the windows.   The boys did good in coming up with ways to cover the windows to keep the house warm.

Putting the boys on the spot and giving them the scenario did help them as well as they had to think through what needs to be done and what could be done.   We identified small things like making a sign for the emergency workers letting them know if there is an emergency in the house or not.   It also made Ben and Daniel think about their First Aid training and how it will matter if something like this happens.

We have enough tents and sleeping bags that we could move out of the house if we had to.

What I do know is that our house is situated on the safest geological setting in the Victoria area.  Our house should survive the earthquake.

We finished the drill about an hour after we started.   Stephen said it was scary to think of it and was asking questions afterwards about what to do if it happens when he is not at home or at school.   I think making it a drill and making everyone treat it as if it was real helped.   Daniel had to abandon his second hamburger when the drill started, all the food was just left on the table till afterwards.

Making us all think about it has really helped and means we will take it that much more seriously than we have in the past.   If you live on the Westcoast, a top ten major global earthquake is a reality we all need to be ready for but most of us are not.

More in the next post

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