We are survivalists who live on a hobby farm within The American Redoubt. In the 23 years we have lived in this region I have yet to feel the ground shake beneath my feet. That’s welcome news speaking as a former Californian who has been through two “big ones”. Yet, for whatever reason (the Holy Spirit, possibly) I began thinking about earthquakes two months ago. Because of this mind set, when three earthquakes, southeast of us, occurred in Utah around the 13th of February and the next day a magnitude 6.0 quake hit off the coast of Oregon. That got my attention.
The Oregon coastal quake had Seattle news outlets airing special segments about the possibility of a “big one” along the “ring of fire” that could cause substantial damage to cities like Seattle, Portland Oregon, Vancouver B.C., etc. They asked one seismologist about this prospect and his answer was, “the good news is that large scale earthquakes on this fault over the last 10,000 years have occurred on average about every 300 years”. “The bad news?” The reporter asked. “The last 'big one' on this fault was 329 years ago." Oh, that’s reassuring.
But we don’t live in earthquake country, we are hundreds (thousands?) of miles and a couple of large mountain ranges between us and “the ring of fire” so no worries right? No, I don’t think that is correct. We have never experienced TEOTWAWKI but we are preparing for that. I lived through an epic ice storm in an area not know for such things also. In fact, portions of the region were without power for 13 weeks from that ice storm. We also had a “fire storm” where none had ever occurred previously.
In the remainder of this essay I will:
1) Describe what an earthquake audit is
2) Review some of the findings of our earthquake audit
3) Review some of the mitigation steps we took to resolve our “audit deficiencies”
4) Share an analogy that I think is fitting
1) What is an Earthquake Audit?
I believe I coined the phrase “earthquake audit”. My version of an earthquake audit was to take a clip board, note pad and marking pen and go room by room; house, shop, outbuildings, everyplace. Using my experience being in quakes plus video’s I have seen of them and trying to visualize what would happen; what would go flying and what would be okay in a modest earthquake. My main focuses were looking “up” to identify things that could fall down with force and looking with an eye to the protection of mission critical items versus lesser important assets. For example having your AN/PVS-14 and Night Vision compatible EO-Tech sight go flying would be much worse than if that large pile of firewood gets scattered. This is mostly common sense it’s just a matter of actually doing it. I made a list of things that I observed to be problematic and then prioritized that list into actionable items.
2) What were the results of our own Earthquake Audit?
Frankly, we failed miserably. Here are three examples among dozens.
Our preparations are extremely organized and inventoried. We have eight of the Gorilla Rack shelving units to store items. I could not believe my eyes (although I should have because I am the one who put them there) when I looked up on the top shelf of one of the shelving units and saw all three of our pressure canners sitting side by side, not in boxes, resting nearly seven feet off the ground on an unsecured shelving unit.
The next “finding” was when I went into a food storage location (with a cement floor) and again could not believe my eyes. We purchase raw local honey from a vendor who sells them in half gallon glass mason jars. We love it as the honey is excellent and you get a half gallon jar to use when you’re done. Also the jars are temperature stabilized in case you need to heat the honey to liquefy it. There on the shelf at eye level was 18 half gallon glass jars of honey on an unsecured shelving unit with the jars right up the very edge of the shelf.
With even a minor rumble in addition to having no honey could you imagine the mess of nine gallons of honey and 18 broken half gallon glass mason jars in one big pile on the cement floor?
The last example was when I walked into the fuel shed. This was an accident waiting to happen. The fuel shed building is built over the top of an underground gas tank. The riser off the tank, 12 volt pump, filters and filler hose are inside the shed. Also inside the shed are shelves and items stacked on the gravel floor. There are metal gas cans, metal 5 gallon kerosene cans, plastic diesel containers a couple of metal 55 gallon drums and a dozen or so propane cylinders. The riser coming up off the underground tank was not protected at all and things were staked up all around it. It wouldn’t have taken much for things to have fallen on the riser likely breaking it. Wouldn’t it have been lovely to have gas cans and propane cylinders flopping about inside a metal walled shed with a severed riser attached to a large gas tank!
3) Mitigation Steps
All of these “deficiencies” had to be fixed. The pressure canners got put in boxes and moved into cupboards with locking doors. For the honey, I secured the shelving unit to the wall and purchased nice plastic totes with locking lids that would hold six half gallon jars each. A couple of layers of bubble wrap on the bottom of the tote then each jar individually wrapped in bubble wrap that was taped in place. The jars were placed in the tote and then shipping “popcorn” was put between the jars. Two layers of bubble wrap on the top then the lid of the tote was securely attached. The totes then were “strapped in” to the secured shelving unit.
The fuel shed got gutted and redone. The fuel tank riser and pump are now completely protected and everything in the shed is strapped down. This was done with 3/8ths x 4” eye bolts and six foot locking tie down straps.
This clearly isn’t rocket science its just taking the time to get it done. Generally speaking; Shelving units need to be secured to something. If not an adjacent wall, look up, is there something above to secure to? On one occasion I had two shelving units at a 90 degree angle to one another. One of the units could be secured to the wall but not the other. So, what I did was attach the units to one another where they met. At the opposite ends I ran a tie down strap to create a triangle from the end of one unit to the end of the other unit, this gave some good strength.
Watch for items that could fall on your head while you are in bed. And some items, there is not much you can do but pray. For example we have a river rock chimney that runs up 25 feet from the main floor through the ceiling of the second floor. I have not idea how strong it is but there is not much that can be done other than building some kind of cradle for it. So if it comes down in a quake it comes down. I guess that’s why you have wood stoves in the shop, master bedroom and back patio as backups. Guns and especially ones with optics need to be protected. My main battle rifle and main defensive shotgun are in metal hard shell cases strapped to something solid. Cushioning inside gun safes are a good idea. Are there items that could fall down behind a closed inward-opening door and block it closed?
4) One way to think about this.
The analogy to this line of thinking is nautical: Sooner or later we are all going to take a journey. Hopefully your journey will be on the good ship “Faithful Survivalist”. We don’t know when we will be leaving on that journey, where it will take us and what the conditions are going to be like along the way. Our sense is though that we are probably going to be leaving sooner rather than later and with the storm clouds we see developing off on the horizon we are not expecting “smooth sailing”. As with any wise captain heading off on a journey of unknown conditions, lets be sure that everything is lashed down; “Everything has a place and every place has a thing”. Because, if the going gets rough we don’t want important items sliding around on deck or falling overboard. Batten down the hatches, mates!
I don’t have a crystal ball and don’t pretend to know the future. I do know that the Holy Spirit put it on my heart to look at our survival stores with a new set of eyes and it was eye opening. I hope you do also and I hope this was helpful.