There’s Not Going To Be An Earthquake. But If There Is…

“There’s not going to be an earthquake. It’s not going to happen. But if there is an earthquake, we have to be prepared.”

So began the neighborhood meeting on emergency preparedness. Six of us gathered, representing about half the homes on the block. We wanted to talk about disaster readiness from a local community perspective.

We talked about the basics: water, food, and heating. And perhaps most importantly, we discussed getting people’s emergency contact info out to other members of the neighborhood.

I was impressed by what my neighbors were already doing: almost everyone had enough food and water for 2 weeks, and most of us were working towards 3 weeks of provisions. We talked a lot about communication in the event of an emergency. The consensus was that, as a neighborhood, we needed to know each other’s emergency contacts so that, in the event there was an emergency, we’d be able to get the kids to the right people, get in touch with the spouse and call the out of state contact.

This seems to me to be a missing link in most emergency preparedness discussions. The checklists of first aid stuff and hiking boots and bottled water is all well and good, but the neighbors knowing how to get in touch with Nick if something happened to me is even more first-principle.

Our neighborhood organizer put together a simple form for us to fill out. As a street, we are going to swap emergency contact info so that information is disseminated.

Our neighborhood organizer had a few other great tips: she talked to us about her gas and water shutoff tools and told us where they were located, so if any of us needed them they would be accessible. She keeps her tools outside, and the gas shut-off is hung from the gas main so it would be very simple for any neighbor to shut off her gas if an emergency necessitated.

She also showed us the Sawyer water filtration system she opted to buy instead of stockpiling fresh water. In our neighborhood we have several above-ground streams and a very high water table, so the argument to keep a high-quality filtration system in the home for emergency fresh water is very convincing.

The system our neighborhood organizer bought and recommended has a million-gallon life. Basically she could keep the street supplied with pure water for as long as the streams didn’t run dry. I went to the Saywer website to check their product line and was pretty impressed. They offer a few sizes of filtration system and this nifty attachment filter that turns two 5-gallon buckets into a high-volume water purification system. In our situation it seems more practical to keep something like that on hand than to do a quarterly rotation of dozens of plastic water containers stashed all over the garage.

Another neighbor has a pair of buddy heaters, which I hadn’t heard of before the meeting. They are like space heaters, but they generate radiant heat and run on propane. These seem like they would be a good option for winter power outages, assuming you also keep enough propane on hand.

I brought a bunch of checklists from the SNAP (Seattle Neighborhoods Actively Prepare) website recommended to me by The Crunchy Chicken who hosted her own neighborhood preparedness party just a few days ago.

I came away feeling pretty impressed by my little community. I think we would really find a wealth of tools and skills to draw from, right on our own block, should an emergency happen.

We’ll be meeting again in a few months. In the meantime, my personal preparedness checklist includes:

  • Save for a water filtration system
  • Add to non-perishable food storage
  • Find flashlights – I know we have them, but they tend to wander – and check battery supply
  • Continue to garden and develop chicken-keeping (I consider my garden a large part of my emergency preparedness)
  • Research more community-based readiness activities to do with neighborhood
  • Research veracity of Triangle of Life recommendations vs Red Cross recommendations for what actions to take in an earthquake. Email neighborhood with conclusions.
What are you doing to help make your neighborhood more emergency-ready?


  1. says

    Thanks for the suggestions and things to think about (especially since I have no idea how disaster-ready my area is, but I doubt there's much going on). I think the water filtration is especially great, though – I live near a creek, and it might make more sense to get one of these than to keep stockpiling water like I've been doing.

  2. Sharon Miro says

    Erica, as usual, this is a timely post.
    You can add the Honeyville Grain store to your set of resources for emergency supplies. They have a enormous amount and variety of freeze dried foods and other such things. I highly reccomend all their products, and their shipping rates are good. I buy my baking flour from them in 50 lb sacks.
    I have enough emergency food for 4-6 months depending on who is eating! These items should be stored in some sort of airtight container (I used plastic bags inside of washed out kitty litter buckets), and my storage is in one of my garages which is basically a cement box with a door.
    Consider that storage of these items should be different than your kicthen cupboards. And don't forget the things that go into the food like salt & sugar.

    Keep a list of the items along with the dates they were put into emergency stores. Don't forget some clothes and shoes.

    I suggest that you take a look at your water source and see if it can be blocked anywhere above where you are.

    I think it's great that your neighborhood is thinking about how to care for eachother.

  3. says

    Interesting and impressive. It might be good to have some water stored just in case you can't go outside for some reason. If people are injured or weather conditions are bad you wouldn't want to have to dredge yourself out to the creek (if you can get to it). I am very interested to hear what you find out about the triangle of life. I watched a few videos and it really seems like it is more effective and it makes sense.

  4. says

    I need to get the food provisions together. My big question is where to store it while we're still renovating. It makes it hard! Other than that we're very undersupplied to be honest.

    We do have a plan with our family about how to reach other, where we'll meet and an out of town contact to check in with.

  5. says

    First off, I vividly recall from my freshman Geology 101 class that the Seattle area is about 50 years overdue for a major earthquake… the kind that moves earth more than 10 feet from it's previous position and everything on it falls down. Of course it happens ever 500 years and so 10% isn't THAT bad of a variance… or is it?

    As for preparedness, we've set up gallon milk jugs of water, but haven't changed them out in ages, so the water's stale. We've always got a stocked pantry from Costco, but protein is in the freezer, so that's a problem. Our biggest problem is picky eaters, hehe, half joking.

    The best news is that our last big earthquake… 64 was it? Well, all our houses survived it. It's a small hope.

    Hopever, where do you keep it? Is a garage with 2 bedrooms above it necessarily going to survive over another part of the house? In the end, you can do your best and hope for the best. Thanks for the resources. I can't imagine my neighbors getting together for anything short of a BBQ. hehe. Impressive.

  6. says

    recently read an essay titled "Personal Preparation" in "The Post Carbon Reader" in which Chris Martenson recommends a ceramic filter. Also noticed that the Red Cross uses ceramic filters. Longer lasting maybe? Will be checking into this, so thanks for giving me more food for thought. Can't hurt to be prepared. "Expect the best, prepare for the worst" just seems like common sense.

  7. says

    Thanks for the great canning book. It arrived Tuesday afternoon. My daughter says I can have it back maybe by this weekend. But only until Monday when another daughter wants it.

    I'm glad that you have addressed the issue of emergency planning in your blog. This is something that is routinely overlooked by urban homesteaders. We have a tendency to adopt the mindset that "I'm growing my own food therefore I am prepared." That is not always the case.

    I live in the desert of Southern Nevada where we have frequent earthquakes, excessive heat, an eternal drought condition, no water table to speak of and only dry rivers and streams. My emergency preparations for my family will be different than yours as they will be different from someone else's. This is the ultimate customized situation. The plans need to fit the people wherever they are. Look at Japan and Arkansas.

    There is a lot of great information on the web regarding this topic. The federal government has much information, nearly every state does, many counties do, too. Make sure that the information you use fits your circumstances. Excessive cold is not an issue for me, neither is excessive rainfall. (Any rainfall could be considered excessive.) But we also have to plan to deal with transportation issues for our food. Nothing, absolutely nothing is produced in my valley except what is grown in backyard gardens. Everything is trucked in from California or Utah or Arizona or Mexico. If the roads close for any appreciable period of time, the grocery stores' shelves dry up instantly.

    That's another issue for many folks. Most of the people I know shop two or three times a week just for the staples they need that week. They have NOTHING on hand for themselves in an emergency, let alone anything to help others with. (I don't understand not even having a week's worth of food on hand. At $4.00 a gallon, you'd think their gas bills would force them to plan at least that long.)

    I have some blogs on the back burner that I'll be posting regarding this issue and some others. I hope you'll keep up what you are doing. You're making a great impact.


  8. says

    Great idea, you inspired me to contact our local Neighbourhood Watch and see about doing a talk or having a discussion at one of our meetings about the same thing. I thought about doing a leaflet drop to our neighbours, but going through an actual group meeting might seem less crazy, doomer like!

    Preparedness is something I have covered alot on my blog, and in our home, but now it's time to get the neighbourhood involved!!

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