Alaska Earthquake 2018, were we prepared?
Is anyone ever really prepared for an Earthquake when it hits? I mean you may have supplies laid in, an action plan and know what to do when the big one hits. But then it happens, do your plans hold? Do run for preplanned cover? Is there enough water at your home? What about ready to eat food? And gas in cars. Alternate plans for getting home or collecting kids? There was so much that we learned after living through the big Alaska earthquake we just experienced that I thought I’d write a quick post about our experience with earthquake preparedness.
When the quake hit, I was pulling in to a parking lot in downtown Palmer. I thought someone hit my car; then I thought the wind was blowing. Once I looked out across the parking lot at panicking people in the swaying Wells Fargo building did I realize it was an earthquake. And then I was frozen in my car. I couldn’t move or think straight, I just gripped the wheel and rode it out. When I thought it had quit, I jumped out of my car and heard a cacophony of sirens going off. That was eerie and terrifying.
I stayed in my car during the quake, because I’m terrified of being swallowed by a sinkhole. The 1964 Good Friday quake stories made an impression on me as a child. I was just too afraid to move. If I were home, I’d have run for the big supporting beam that runs through our home away from our picture windows. But in reality, the best thing to do is seek cover under something sturdy; decide what’s best in your home.
Immediate Family Contact
Number one priority was family contact. I called my husband first to make sure he was ok; he works in one of the oldest buildings in town. Then the second jolt hit me, and I felt like I was going to fall under my car so I jumped back in. When that jolt stopped, I contacted my sons and then my sister who works in a warehouse. I spoke with both sons who have phones almost immediately and was able to reach my sister as well.
I tried in vain to contact my youngest son’s school but couldn’t get through; the lines got jammed with other calls. I received a text by 9 am that the kids did great, they were safe, but come and get them when we could. We picked them up or had them brought home by friends as soon as possible. What would I do differently in the future? Nothing, we did the best we could although we didn’t have a plan for this. That’s one thing to fix.
I think we did this well. We walked our home perimeter looking for slipped beams, broken walls, blocks sliding and the like. We suffered no real visible damage to our home. We had no gas smell or hissing sounds, so the gas was ok. We had a lot of broken things, like dishes, vases, mugs, and the like. The pantry is one area we need to upgrade to be safer in the next quake. We lost a lot of home canned goods due to sliding and falling off shelves. We were incredibly lucky our home withstood the earthquake; it stood through the 64 quake as well. Lesson learned? Add a rail to the shelves to keep things on them.
Food, Water, Sanitation
Our food supply is always well stocked. We keep a full pantry and Costco pantry at all times. We had enough food. And enough water stocked up to get us through a few days. We have well water, and there was a boil water advisory in effect, so we drank our bottled water and boiled water to replenish the supply. The stores sold out of bottled water almost immediately; we were glad for our home supply.
When our water slowed to trickle we brought in our bucket toilet just in case we needed it. It turns out that the aquifer was full of sediment and it clogged our filter. No need for the bucket toilet but it’s so handy to have. Lessons learned: keep extra water filters on hand, and we need more bottled water. Plus always keep a bucket toilet handy! (affiliate link)
Earthquake Preparedness and the Alaska Earthquake of 2018
We learned some good lessons about how to be more prepared, like:
- we need a comprehensive “Family Contact Plan” -who will be calling who, how we attend kids, take care of parents and the like
- our pantry needs some shoring up, like rails around shelves and perhaps other measures need to be considered as well
- double the bottled water supply we keep on hand
- purchase and install a generator that will run our house; we can’t afford to be without power and electricity
- keep the cars fueled up at 3/4s of a tank, always and forever
- keep more canned protein on hand for quick meal prep
- build an emergency kit to include water filters, hand sanitizer, paper towels or napkins, a couple of boxes of protein bars, a week or two supply of diabetic supplies, a hand crank radio, flashlights, and other items as we discover them
So while we felt reasonably well prepared you can see that we have some areas we need to address. All in all, we know we were incredibly lucky to have escaped the Alaska Earthquake of 2018. 7.0 on the Richter Scale and our cities made it through thanks to a lot of smart engineering decisions made after the 1964 quake. It tested our earthquake preparedness, our resilience and our ability to ride out 1400 aftershocks.