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When the Earth Starts Shaking in Kirkland

I'm sure many of you read The New Yorker article from July 20th, outlining every detail of the impending doom Seattle will inevitably face when "the big one" comes.  It outlines, in excruciating detail, a sizable earthquake where the Cascadia subduction zone will unleash a path of destruction on us. It is said to have a 1 in 3 chance of happening in the next 50 years.  You can't help but read the text and sink down in your chair as you realize it is not a fictional story you are reading, but a prediction and a forewarning.  

So I'm not here to scare the holy hell out of you.  But I did scamper off and chat with some folks I know in emergency management and they nod in agreement and commend the author's thorough research. A 'friend of-a-friend' up the chain in FEMA in DC confirmed that the article is indeed on scale with the budgeting and planning that has been done for this area for when, not 'if', an expected event consistent with that description occurs. SH#%$&*.  I don't think we have to move eastward, but I do think this is a wake-up call for us to all get ourselves, our families, our streets, our neighborhoods and our community PREPARED.  I asked Pattijean Hooper, our City of Kirkland Emergency Manager, what she thought of the article and recent publicity around it.  She quipped, "It's as if you were 7 months pregnant and people are just now noticing."  So, it seems that we should start decorating our metaphorical nursery, perhaps?

Whether it's a quake, or a volcanic eruption or some other emergent event,  I like to think our household is relatively prepared.  There are tips all over the web and Red Cross site of course, but I'll share a few of things that we do/have in our household in case you're curious. It might be a good-starting point if you haven't given this much thought but want to get started.

This is not in a bunker, I promise:

- we have a plan.  My kids know where they are supposed to go (within our house or our street). We sometimes chat about where we'd seek shelter in various situations.

-shoes near our beds (for when glass breaks)

-water and gas shutoff tools (near the shutoffs)

-flashlights and whistles in each bedroom (also some hardhats, might be overkill but kids think it's fun)

-hand-crank radio, first aid kits, gloves, extra food/water supplies, Lifestraws, fire extinguishers, rope, hand-warmers, survival blankets, waterproof matches, maps, things to do, batteries, medications

-bonus points: goggles and face masks

-Emergency packs in our cars and workplace (purchased from

-Museum Wax- bought it but haven't done anything w/it yet.  To keep fragile stuff from falling out of cabinets/shelves

-We also did an emergency plan with our street, called Map Your Neighborhood.  Do it, you'll sleep better.  It's cool to see everyone come together and devise a strategy.  Our street knows who lives where, where our meeting spot is, who is likely to need help (elderly, little kids), and what each household has to contribute (generators, tools, medical or electrical skills, or even a wine cellar to pass the time). We have this documented on PAPER for every household (b/c our computers won't work then). And the reality?   PD/FD will be too busy solving bigger problems so be able to sustain yourselves.

-Check your insurance (earthquake is a separate policy). Make sure it's current.  We just did a remodel so I had to up ours a bit.

-have paper docs of what you might need to run out the door with- acct numbers, policy #'s, phone numbers

-Take photos of everything you have. I took 500 photos in my house. Walk through each room, photograph what is in each drawer.  You won't remember what you had later, when insurance asks you how many Barbie dolls or pairs of socks they need to replace for you.  Put it on the cloud or a thumb drive in your safe deposit box or with an out of town relative. Some insurance co's have a digital locker you can use.

Payphone <---(payphones still exist and are a land line in an emergency. And I got to sneak Adam Levine into this post. Dreamy)

-Have an emergency contact that is your out of state point person.  That's who you (and all in your family that may not be together at said disastrous moment) call to let them know you are ok.  When the time comes, out of state calls will work better than local. Texts will pile up but might be ok.  Or find a landline (not connected to your internet)- yes there are a few payphones still in existence. 

-You'd be the teacher's pet if you Sign up for CERT (Community Emergency Response Team). Classes fill quickly. 

Ok, so to be clear.  DO NOT come to my house in an emergency. Get yourself ready. Lots of great info on our city's website here.  When I met with Pattijean I was trying to pick her brain for what an event such as the one described in the NY Post article  would mean specifically for Kirkland.  Where are we vulnerable? What bridges/roadways do we think might collapse? How are our people trained to respond? Would a tsunami reach Lake WA?  She does not have a crystal ball so none of these answers are clear because we just don't know what the actual situation will be until it presents itself. But here are some useful nuggets I walked away with:

-Seiche.  I learned a new word that day (pronounced say-sh). It's a 'standing wave oscillating in a body of water.'  So, NO giant tsunami-sized wave will make it to Kirkland, but the lake make slosh around a bit.  Sort of like tripping with a cup of coffee in your hand and that's no fun.

-I was comforted by the fact that there is an enormous document that details protocols for a Plan A, B, and C at every level of our government and relevant organizations in the response and recovery process. There are people that have carefully thought through the hows and where's and which places are accessible by boat or by plane and where greatest concentrations of people and vulnerabilities and resources will be required. Where to stage things, how the National Guard gets engaged, etc etc. Don't freak, just rest assured, they are doing their part. 

-In June of 2016 in Kirkland and all over WA emergency services from all of the state "play" the plan they have in place.  It's not just a document, they practice the plan and learn from it. Smart.

-Best part- NEED YOUR HELP! Once you have yourself ready, it's time to think outward to your community.  Pattijean is setting up "Stone Soup Centers," and is looking for more locations. Stone Soup is the title of an old folk story where a community comes together by each putting one small item in a pot, to make a large amount of soup to sustain them all.  So far, Inglewood Presbyterian Church and NW University are Stone Soup Centers.  It is a place that will house a generator (supplied by a grant thru the city), and safety/First Aid supplies and would be willing to serve as 'charging station' for those in need during an emergency.  It's not instead of having your home ready (don't expect food and water), but a safe place to go and come together with other community members. Each one has committed volunteers to run it with the help of the city.  Ultimately, we should have a Stone Soup Center in every neighborhood.  So we've got a way to go. Can your business, church, local organization be a Stone Soup Center? Email Pattijean Hooper at [email protected]  to find out more about the program.

Hopefully you are not booking a one way ticket to NYC or building a bunker right now.  Talking to your family and neighbors about your plan and maybe adding a few items to your emergency prep items to your purchase list each week isn't a bad idea though.  ~j



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Sharon Singh

Great article Janis, thank you! You have motivated me and my family to get organized, now we need to spread the word. An event we don't even wish to think about but, at least we can rest if we know we are prepared as we can be.

Jim Lloyd

Dear friends,

I ran across this article and thought I would share it with all my friends! It's an important reminder that we are all vulnerable and should have a Emergency Preparedness Plan in place to protect our families and friends in the event of a natural disaster.

One for all and all for one,
Jim :-)

Barbie Collins Young

I love the comparison to being 7 months pregnant and just noticing. Great reminder. Headed to get a case of Top Ramen now...and a hard hat.

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