A couple of decades ago, my wife and I were sleeping peacefully when we were rudely awaken by the room shaking. I remember feeling odd, like something was wrong, and looked up and saw the lamp swinging slightly, then more and more. The shaking came on in seemingly slow motion, building in intensity over several seconds (which felt like hours to my sleepy mind). Then, WHAM, the real earthquake hit and I was suddenly fully awake. I bolted upright, and quickly shoved my wife off the bed and under a desk. I went under a table and watched bookshelves and furniture do a crazy dance across the floor, buckle, and fall over. My CD collection spewed across the floor (hundreds of CDs everywhere) and, most importantly, dozens of glasses, bowls and plates careened out of the kitchen shelves and shattered on the floor. Drawers opened up as if angry ghosts pulled them out and knives and other silverware literally flew across the room.
Needless to say, it was very frightening.
This happened early in the morning, I think it was around 3am, and it was very dark. Once the shaking stopped, the first thing I found out was that the electricity was not working. The second thing I discovered, the hard way, was all the glass in the kitchen had fallen on the floor and shattered. I cut up my feet pretty badly on the broken glass. This, of course, made the wife even more hysterical than she already was after the ground shook. She had never been in an earthquake before and was terrified.
As the morning and day unfolded, one fact became very clear to me (I tend to be annoyingly logical sometimes): Although I had read a lot about how to survive a disaster, and even was in charge of the disaster recovery site for a major retailer, I was completely unprepared for what happened.
I didn’t even know where the breaker box was in our apartment. I didn’t have a pair of slippers in the bedroom near the bed, and wouldn’t have thought to put them on anyway (thus resulting in some very badly cut up feet). My “first aid kit” consisted of a small box of bandages which was, of course, empty because we had used them for the small cuts in life.
Worst of all, I had no idea what to do.
Knowledge Is Power
Shortly after that, I attended the 7 night class to become a Civilian Emergency Response Team (CERT) member for Los Angeles. This excellent class gave me all of the data needed to prepare for, live through and survive a disaster. It is run by the fire department and it serves as a base of knowledge about disasters and how to become effective at dealing with them. The class is so good I actually attended twice, and will probably attend it again before too much longer. The data never gets stale and I always learn something new.
I read dozens of books on the subject, and made efforts to understand not just what to do in a disaster, but how I could help others in those kids of situations.
Working On My Survival Checklist
The first thing I did was to scout the area. The idea was to understand evacuation routes, potential disasters in of themselves (chemical plants, gang infested areas, power generation plants and so on), the location of important service organizations like the fire and police departments, and other similar bits of information. One thing I wanted to understand was what was the cities plan for dealing with a disaster. The CERT class was actually the most useful place to get that information.
The next thing I learned was how to prepare for a disaster. What kind of supplies are needed under what conditions? What’s important and what’s not? With that data, I slowly put together a disaster recovery kit (actually three of them: one in the house, one in the apartment and one in the car).
Now I focused on recovery from a disaster. How much food and water and other supplies are needed to survive for a day, a week or a month without any kind of help? With that information, I put together a survival kit in my house which will allow me to survive for two weeks without any resupply.
It’s been a long process, to learn all of this information and to put it all together as part of my life. But now I believe I can survive well in any disaster, and better yet, help others as well.