Alaska had a bit of excitement last Friday when a 7.0 earthquake struck. Although it wasn’t a massive quake per se, it was very close to Alaska’s main population center, Anchorage. I had a few observations to pass along:
- People behaved themselves well. Granted, the aftermath of the quake wasn’t too extreme, but overall people were on their best behavior. I think this shows that you can usually expect better than normal behavior from people in situations where the disaster is perceived as something that will be solved shortly.
- My preparations gave me great peace of mind, in addition to the fact that I live in a smaller town outside Anchorage and work just 3 miles from home. I can’t recommend enough living in a smaller town and working close to home.
- People from my area who commute the normal 45 minutes into Anchorage had a slow drive home the day of the quake. Personally, if I knew my family and house were safe, I would have stayed with a friend in Anchorage rather than attempt to get home. Which brings me to my next point…
- Sometimes the way people react to situations can be worse than the original event. As I said earlier, people behaved themselves well, but they were rushing on the road to get home or get their kids from school. There were several accidents that were no doubt caused by this.
- The runs on the gas stations were almost immediate, with everyone was out trying to fill up right after. One of my friends barely made it back from Anchorage because of the fuel situation, but a kind stranger at the gas station gave him 10 gallons to get back. I did not witness any bad behavior at gas stations.
- I think you can expect highways to turn into parking lots quickly in an emergency as people run out of gas or have accidents. Do you think you’re the only one who knows about a detour? Probably not, expect your side route to be choked as well. Another great reason to work close to home.
- I went to the supermarket mostly just to see what things were like (probably not the best idea but I believed the situation was calm enough that I could do it safely). While everyone was calm and orderly, people looked shaken (no pun intended) and serious. It was interesting to see what people had in their carts for their 12th hour “preps.” Bottled water and snack foods mostly, as well as canned foods with limited calories such as soups. The bottled water had me scratching my head. There was plenty of snow, most people still had power and the ability to run water into jugs at home, and most people here are never more than a few miles from a creek or river with water. Why waste time with a paltry 24 case of water? Make no mistake, the ignorance of the most basic things like drinking water is real among most Americans, even here in oh so rugged Alaska. I’m glad this all turned out be a fairly minor incident because if there had been extended infrastructure issues I think most people would have been helpless.
- I have a friend who is a police officer locally, and he reported that people were generally orderly that day. Again, I believe it shows that most people are actually better behaved during a disaster deemed to be short term in nature.
- The only 2 preps I wished I had on hand were more small propane bottles for Coleman stoves and heaters. While I have plenty of other ways to cook, these would have been very convenient had the gas or electricity went off. I also had no chainsaw gas on hand without siphoning it out of my vehicles. Another over sight on my part that fortunately did not bite me.
Overall, the most important preparation I made was mental. I knew a large earthquake was inevitable, so I wasn’t paralyzed when it finally happened (if you live near Seattle, are you listening? The Cascadia fault is overdue). Spend a few minutes every day thinking about survival scenarios, not worrying, but mentally rehearsing the actions you will take.
I hope this report can help everyone out as they prepare for similar situations and much worse. Godspeed.