Have you ever looked into your state’s disaster recovery plan? Or even checked to see if they have one? I don’t know about all states, but my state does have one. And if you look into it, it has some pretty scary stuff.

I first encountered my state’s Resilience Plan about three years ago and there were some time frames in there that scared the crap out of me. I wrote an article about earthquake risk and discovered this document. I already had a lot of camping and hiking gear and felt prepared for when basic things go wrong, like losing power for a couple of days. But the time frames in this document are what prompted me to up my prepping game. Here’s what I mean:

Critical Service     –     Estimated Time to Restore Service

Electricity inland     –     1 to 3 months
Electricity in coastal areas     –     3 to 6 months
Police and fire stations inland       –      2 to 4 months
Drinking water and sewage inland     –     1 month to 1 year
Drinking water and sewage in coastal areas     –     1 year to 3 years
Top priority highways (partial restoration) inland     –     6 to 12 months
Healthcare facilities inland     –     18 months
Healthcare facilities in coastal areas     –     3 years

Personally, I think the time frames are unrealistic and shorter than what will actually happen. If the highways are’t working, that means there’s no gas. That means the electricity repair vehicles can’t get around to fix things.

I recently had a conversation with a friend who is well-armed, but not well-prepared as far as back-up food, camping gear, first-aid supplies, etc. I asked him what he would do in an emergency…would he stay in his small house in the city or get out? Would he stay as long as he could or get out early?

His response was that he planned to load up his car with his guns and stuff and drive to a family’s home in California. Well, I reminded him, if a partial restoration of major highways takes up to a year, how will you cross the rivers with your loads of guns and ammo? That made him think a little bit. Then he planned to fortify in his home until he couldn’t anymore. Then? Who knows.

What is your state telling you about its disaster recovery plan?

ride out a tsunami with a survival podWe wrote about this survival pod designed to withstand any type of disaster back in June 2016 when we first heard about it. Now, we heard on a radio program on NPR that the first customer in the United States has bought one and it is now deployed in Ocean Park, Washington.

Jeanne Johnson lives in Ocean Park, which is just north of the Oregon border. It is prime tsunami country. Some parts of the Oregon-Washington coast, like the sandy, flat peninsula where Johnson lives, offers no high ground protection. Sometimes, there are bluffs right behind the coastal zone. So if you’re walking along the beach and happen to be in one of these spots when a tsunami hits, there might not be time to get out and up to high ground.

Johnson’s survival pod is sold by Mukilteo, Washington-based Survival Capsule LLC. Her pod is designed for 2 people, while other models are designed for 4 people. The company has sold 8 other pods to people in Japan. The pods are made of aircraft aluminum and the 2-person pod is about 4 1/2 feet in diameter. Two tiny windows like portholes would allow you to see out around you while you are strapped in. It comes with air tanks and drinking water bladders. A ceramic heat shield on the inside makes it suitable to protect users from other types of disasters too, such as fires.

Yes, it sounds claustrophobic! But, says Johnson, the alternative is not surviving because you have nowhere to go and you drown, or not surviving because you are caught in the panic of crowds all trying to get away. In the pod, you might be bobbing around for a while and having “the ride of your life,” but at least you would be protected right where you are. She keeps her pod in her garage.

How much are you willing to pay for this protection? The 2-person pod starts at $13,500 and the 4-person pod starts at $17,500. Other pods are available to hold 6, 8 and 10 people.  If you live in a place prone to wildfire or tsunamis, or earthquakes, or tornadoes, and you have a family that you don’t believe you can evacuate in time, this could be an excellent insurance policy.

Photo of Jeanne Johnson from kuow.org by Tom Banse/Northwest News Network 

Photo of pod from survival-capsule.com

The new blockbuster San Andreas hits theaters this weekend. In the movie, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson heroically rescues people from tumbling skyscrapers and monstrous tsunami waves. It will no doubt be packed with amazing special effects and edge of your seat action.

But how realistic is this nightmare scenario? Crowds of people flock to disaster flicks like these, and hopefully they’ll know what’s pure Hollywood entertainment and what’s more plausible in real life.

These types of movies are usually based on some semblance of fact, but take huge liberties with the actual possibility of what could occur. As enthusiastic moviegoers, we pay big money for over-the-top action and dazzling graphic displays. It’s important to remember that, while devastating earthquakes do happen, the scenes in San Andreas are either highly remote or downright impossible.

How real is the action in San Andreas? Can an earthquake really cause that kind of damage?
It’s nearly impossible for seismologists to accurately predict an oncoming earthquake, as they dramatically do in the movie. The best they can do is make educated guesses based on seismic activity over time and events that occur directly after an initial earthquake, such as aftershocks or triggered earthquakes.

The plates that meet at the San Andreas Fault move horizontally, which couldn’t result in the gaping canyons seen in the movie. The fault is located mostly on land, pretty much negating the possibility of any massive tsunami waves being triggered as well.

Although there are numerous faults all around the globe, the San Andreas Fault is most famous because of its close proximity to densely populated areas of California. This makes it an ideal subject for a thrilling movie, given the possible death and destruction that would come as a result of a seismic event.

Some scenes in the movie San Andreas are very accurate. Here’s what you can really expect from an earthquake.
The movie gets some things about earthquakes exactly right. The big scenes in the movie may have been intensified for dramatic effect, but there is no shortage of fear, danger, and intensity during a real earthquake.

Panic and fear
When an earthquake occurs, unprepared people will be scared and helpless. Confusion and surprise lead people to act out of desperation. Keep your distance from crowds and potential looting. Keep supplies that can last up to two weeks prepared at home. Knowing that you’ll be able to eat and have clean water will give you peace of mind in a chaotic time.

Shaking buildings and homes
The most important steps to follow when you feel an earthquake are: Drop, Cover, and Hold On. No matter where you’re located, get into a stable position that protects your head and neck. Take cover under a sturdy object like a desk or table. Flying debris like glass and heavy objects pose the most danger. Since the shaking will make everything unsteady, hold onto something secure. Stay put until the area is safe. If you want to learn more about these steps, and play “Beat the Quake”, an instructional game for kids, visit dropcoverholdon.org

No electrical power
Prepare for power blackouts by keeping flashlights and candles in an accessible location in your home or car. Keep the batteries charged and make sure everyone in your home knows where to find them. A battery powered radio can help you stay informed about the weather and safe places. Stay away from any down power lines or dark areas that may be unsafe.

Damaged and blocked roadways
Aftershocks are a very real element of earthquake activity. Don’t go sprinting off when you think the initial earthquake is over. Stay in a safe area until you’ve been informed that it’s safe to change locations. Roadways may have endured cracks and other damage that make them dangerous for cars. Don’t leave your safe space unless you absolutely must. Flooding, fallen trees, and disabled vehicles can make travel very treacherous.

Heroic First Responders will be on the scene.
In the movie, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays a heroic rescuer from the Los Angels Fire Department. There will be many emergency personnel on the scene making sure that everyone is as safe as possible. You can help them by remaining calm and following their directions. Teach your children how to recognize police, firefighters, and emergency medical staff. Children may sometimes be afraid of their equipment or forceful nature in times of danger, but they should know that these people are there to help.

We can’t predict earthquakes. The best we can do is prepare.
Go out and enjoy San Andreas this weekend, but remember that most of what you’ll see on the screen is Hollywood fantasy. Use the film as a gateway to talking with your family and neighbors about how you can prepare for an earthquake or other natural disaster in your area.