Friday, August 7, 2015

Sitting on The “Big One.” This Is Your Northwest

How do you think about your own death and destruction? Maybe you’ve seen the disaster movies. Are you in the masses that die or the few that survive? Here’s why I have a hard time thinking about this...

Another ‘wake-up’ call received this summer was reading and reading about Kathryn Schulz‘s article in The New Yorker,The Really Big One” and its follow-up, “How To Stay Safe When The Big One Comes.”

I think of myself as making reasoned decisions weighing costs and benefits either embedded internally or externally. I’m sure these decisions are based on information filtered through my experiences and beliefs the same way old Republican men and testosterone-laden, 16-year old first-time drivers make decisions. But faced with a situation outside the realm of past experience, say a health diagnosis of a terminal condition or a massive earthquake that will destroy a sizable portion of the coastal Northwest, I end up with a kind of brain-lock.

How are you supposed to think about the end of life as you know it?

Local media surely felt a bit miffed that a national publication gained that much public reaction after local media had been covering the stories of the “Big One” for years. Wrote Schulz in her follow-up: “.... the overwhelming response was alarm. ‘Terrifying,’ the story kept getting called; also ‘truly terrifying,’ ‘incredibly terrifying,’ ‘horrifying,’ and ‘scary as fuck.’ ‘Don’t read it if you want to go back to sleep,’ one reader warned. ‘It’s hard to overhype how scary it is,’ Buzzfeed said. ‘New Yorker scares the bejesus out of NW,’ the Seattle Post-Intelligencer wrote.”

Christopher Dunagan in his Watching Our Waterways blog puzzled over, “How did one magazine article generate such a tsunami of public alarm?” and went on to recount his years of reporting on the “Big One.” Local media have also recounted the 10 (or whatever number) essential things everyone should have in one’s earthquake preparedness kit (Washington State Military Department: "Preparedness, training key in riding out the Big One.")

The list sits on my desk.  The trouble with this “What Can You Do” list for “Big One” preparedness is that it’s based solely on the idea that I and my household will survive. In that case I think guns and ammunition should be included in the kit. I don’t want to add guns and ammo in my survival kit. I want to be with my neighbors and my community if I survive the “Big One” because I really can’t imagine surviving alone.

Last Tuesday evening was a national event called “Night Out Against Crime” where neighbors were encouraged to leave their lights on in the evening, spend time outside and get to know neighbors. Thinking about the “Big One,” I’d feel better being part of something like a community-based strategy to put supplies by neighborhood by neighborhood and identifying neighbor skills and resources in which individual household preparedness kits (no guns or ammo) were a part.

I’m still trying to get my mind around my possible demise. I don’t have Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson living in my neighborhood to take me to safety and if I’m in the masses that die in the disaster, that’s that. But the tough part is what happens if I and others survive, and it would be great to prepare accordingly.

--Mike Sato


  1. I live ins a rural, farming area where neighbors are some ways apart. But no doubt in the event of a disaster, everyone able would bring what they have to the help party.

    I also have friends in Anacortes who participate in neighborhood/community preparedness planning and organizing activity. Just in case of a disaster like a big quake or fire or flood or ... I think these types of plannings are fairly widespread - I hope.

    1. Maybe this is going on in other communities. Here's to you and your friends and neighbors surviving. Thanks for writing.