Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us

by Dave Robinson

Dave Robinson

Earthquake! Not If But When
Originally published January 30, 2012

No conversation about disaster preparedness would be complete without mentioning earthquakes. Historically we are visited by a major offshore seismic event every 300-600 years. There have been many quakes in Oregon in recent history, but the last notable quake to strike our region was in 1700. The general consensus among geologists is that it’s not a matter of ‘if’ it happens again, but rather a matter of ‘when’.

Major earthquakes out in the ocean generate tsunamis. Everyone remembers the December quake a few years back when the ensuing tsunami struck Southeast Asia, then again the Japanese earthquake on March 11, 2011 followed up by the relentless destruction of a tsunami. So if the experts are right, we can expect a tsunami-generating quake off the coast at any moment.

Communities along the coast are in significant danger depending on the size and location of the quake. Every coastal city in Oregon has taken the matter seriously by installing tsunami warning systems, safe centers and signs pointing to escape routes. Experts believe this is not a matter to be taken lightly.

Aside from the initial damage, there are two major problems I see when it comes to quakes. First, electrical power will be interrupted for a lengthy period of time, shutting down most banking and retail stores. Secondly, roads and bridges will be impassable based on the strength and location of the seismic event. Next time you drive out of the area, count the bridges that will require inspection following a quake before ODOT will allow their use. Also count the ‘cuts’ in the hillsides that may liquefy and block the road. Not only will we be isolated and restricted from traveling to the outside, but any efforts to be resupplied will be severely restricted due to impassable roads.

In regards to communications, you can plan on your landline phones to be down for a time. Depending on whether or not the cell phone towers and fiber optic cables remain intact, we may or may not have cell service. While I’m on the topic of cell phones; In the event of any disaster, take a hint from the kids and use your texting function. Sending a text message uses less ‘space’ on the system and greatly increases the chance of your message getting through. ‘Voice’ messages will often get a recording, “Sorry all circuits are busy, please try your call again later.” Not what you want to hear when trying to connect with your family. If you don’t know how to text on your cell phone, just ask the nearest kid.

FEMA and the Red Cross have always advised us to have food and supplies to last 72 hours, no wait, seven days, even better, 14 days. So you get your kit together, and you’ve got some peace of mind. That winter storm can come and you’ve got no worries, an earthquake can strike and your chances of survival are greatly increased. So what happens if you aren’t home when disaster strikes? Check back in with me next time when we discuss getting home. As always you may email me with your questions and comments at disasterprep.dave@gmail.com.

Note: Dave Robinson is Bandon's Postmaster and has worked for the postal service for 30 years. He has a background in law enforcement, served in the Air Force in Vietnam, worked nine years for the Coos County Sheriff's Department, and serves on the Myrtle Point School Board, where he lives.

additional columns by Dave Robinson