Earthquake Preparedness in the PNW

November 28, 2018


We’ve all heard of the “Big One” coming to the Pacific Northwest. No, not Bigfoot or the big Oregon Brewers Festival. We’re talking about the big earthquake likely to hit Oregon, Washington, and northern California sometime in the next 100 years. That’s a downer, but it’s better to be prepared, right?

Emergency supplies so you’re always prepared

Don’t be caught unaware or unprepared when the earth starts moving (or when any emergency strikes for that matter)! Make sure you’ve got enough supplies to support your family if a dire situation calls for it. But don’t just start throwing canned food in a box in the basement.

Make a strategically organized kit that has what you really need, with food and water for your family, a flashlight, batteries, and other necessities. Be sure to consider each person’s specific needs, including their medication. In fact, just check out our full emergency supply checklist.

Emergency kit checklist

    • Water. Store one gallon per person, per day, with at least a 3-day supply. If you have space, a 2-week supply would be even better.
    • Food. Pack up nonperishable and easy-to-prepare food items. Again, make sure you have at least a 3-day supply per person. Check out MREs and camping foods for convenience.
    • Flashlights and batteries. If the power goes out, a strong flashlight will prove extremely useful, especially to signal for help. It’s good to have at least one light per person.
    • Radio and batteries. A battery-powered or hand-crank radio is the best option, so you can get updates and news, even if the power is out or phone service is poor.
    • First aid kit. If you or a family member is injured during an earthquake or emergency, having bandages and a basic medical kit on hand is essential.
    • Medications. If you or a loved one takes prescriptions, keep a week’s worth stored in your kit. Also stock up on generic medicine like aspirin or allergy pills, just in case.
    • Sanitation and personal hygiene items. Keep a supply of toilet paper, soap, feminine products, and towels on hand.
    • Emergency blankets. Again, if the power goes out, your electric furnace won’t function, so emergency blankets or extra bedding is crucial for colder months.
    • Cell phone battery pack. Hardly anyone has a landline anymore, so make sure you’ve got a battery pack to charge phones (or a cord to connect to a car or generator) so you can communicate with your family and friends.
    • Copies of important personal documents. Things like medication lists and medical information, proof of address, passports, birth certificates, a house deed or lease, and insurance policies are important to keep on hand, especially if your house has been damaged or someone needs medical attention.

  • Family and emergency contact information. You probably don’t have everyone’s phone number memorized, so write it down! If your cell phone loses power, you can still contact the people that matter most.

    • Multipurpose tool. You never know when you’ll need a small knife, or scissors, or a screwdriver … it’s just so handy!
    • Extra cash. Having cash on hand is very useful during an emergency, especially if the power is out and stores can’t accept debit or credit cards.
    • Paper map. If your phone runs out of power, have a paper map on hand in case you need to evacuate or travel.

  • Don’t forget about your pets! Pack up at least a week’s worth of pet food, a bowl, water (pack a gallon a day), collar, leash, pet ID, toys, and a secure pet carrier. Furry friends are part of the family too, so make sure you have what they need to be safe and comfortable.

Make a plan

The more you plan, the better you’re equipped to handle an earthquake, even if it’s the “Big One.” When an earthquake hits, items tend to fall off shelves and walls, so start by securing things like TVs, large mirrors, and hanging art. Try storing heavy and breakable objects on low shelves, so nothing falls and injures someone during a quake. You can also anchor tall, top-heavy, or free-standing shelves and furniture to the wall.

Consider calling your insurance company and asking if earthquake coverage is available for your home. Or, have a professional check that your house is anchored to the foundation. Preparing your house ahead of time can save you on repair costs later. If your house sits in a flood or liquefaction zone, it’s good to know about it ahead of time.

Most importantly, make an evacuation plan. Decide ahead of time where you and your family will meet up if an earthquake hits while you’re not home. In Portland, for example, the city is split in half by the Willamette River. If you work across town from your house, choose a place for shelter if the bridges are down. Also, choose one family member or friend out of state to act as a point of contact. They can take on the task of coordinating with everyone if phone service is unreliable in your area.

No one wants to think about natural disasters, but preparing for them can save lives. If you don’t have enough space in your house, apartment, or condo for your emergency kit, consider making room for it by putting other extra stuff in storage. Keeping your emergency supplies on hand is key, so find a secure spot in Oregon or a dry place in Washington to hold the stuff you rarely use so your emergency supply is accessible at home.

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