Being prepared when the ‘big one’ strikes | Reporter’s Notebook

Being prepared when the ‘big one’ strikes | Reporter’s Notebook

When it comes to disaster preparation, do as I say, not as I do. For years – well, almost a decade, really – I have been encouraging everyone around me to be prepared for the “big one.”

Since learning about the Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake in Geology 101 that will, someday, strike the Pacific Northwest, I’ve been preaching the necessity of having food, water and supplies, enough to last you a few days.

I, however, have utterly failed at doing the aforementioned preparation myself, and the Disaster Preparation Event at Sea View Theatre last week just served to remind me of my planning ineptitude.

Unlike on the mainland, which is where I learned to be prepared for a “few days,” the islands are far more isolated and are likely to be further down the emergency response food-chain following such a catastrophic event that we all should prepare to take care of ourselves for at least two weeks – if not more.

The county’s Department of Emergency Management has compiled a calendar breaking down items to purchase and activities to perform over a year to prepare for an emergency. Purchasable items include: 13 gallons of water per person and pet (though for two weeks, it should really be 14 gallons, one gallon per day); canned foods; flashlights; hand-operated can opener; batteries; sanitary supplies (napkins, toilet paper, diapers, etc.); instant drinks; comprehensive first aid kit; a plastic bin for storing everything; extra pet supplies; cash (small bills); critical prescription medications; portable am/fm radio; a NOAA weather radio; vitamins; fire extinguisher; pliers; boxed foods; bagged rice; disposable plates, napkins utensils, cups; liquid dish soap; bleach; hand soap; and work gloves.

Knowing that the potential for an extended time without any assistance is very likely in the islands, I know I am going to prepare for the worst while hoping that the worst never comes. I highly suggest you do the same.

Consider participating in the annual Great Washington Shakeout in October; see Learn more about San Juan County’s preparation for emergencies at Also check out,, and for more information.