Did you ever picture putting all your survival know-how to the test in an urban environment, in a giant city? Did you think about all the piles of rubble you’d have to work around to “put rubber to the road”?
Mexico City Earthquake, September 19th, 2017
I know I didn’t, until I found myself in Mexico City on September 19th of last year, that is. This was the day a 7.2 earthquake shook Central Mexico, toppled buildings, and killed nearly 400 people. This also happened to be the anniversary, to the day, of the hugely destructive 1985 Guerrero Earthquake that shook the city to its knees and claimed an untold number of lives. (Estimates range from 10,000 to 45,000 people.)
First Alarm- Just a Drill and Reminder of 1985 Earthquake
September 19, 2017 didn’t exactly have an auspicious start when the seismic alarm sounded throughout the city in the late morning. But, this first alarm was just a drill– a reminder of 1985 and the shaky soil on which the city sits. It’s a drill that’s sounded every September 19th. Schools, offices, and hospitals throughout the city practice a mock evacuation, so it was nothing to worry about.
Second Alarm, Not a Drill
However, just after 2 PM there was plenty to worry about, as the alarm sounded once more. I knew that this time it was definitely not a drill, as I observed my environs swaying from side to side. I was at the mercy of nature.
Buildings mere blocks from me had crumbled to dust. Critical infrastructure was knocked out or overloaded, as thousands desperately tried to make their ways home. I felt like I was in the beginning scene of a SHTF scenario, and I was kicking myself for not being prepared.
Sure, I had the beginnings of a bug-out bag, but prepping had been a neglected hobby to this point. It had not been a priority.
Four Items I Wished For
These four items include a generator and a power bank. They also include a motorcycle and LifeStraw. Let me explain.
1. A Generator
A generator is not the most exciting survival gadget in the world, but I noticed its absence. Sure, an extra generator would have been nice for the six or so hours that I was without power in my home, but the city was able to restore my neighborhood pretty quickly. Others were not so lucky.
Some neighborhoods went over a week without power, and I would have been happy to loan my generator to those who needed it most. The people forced to live in darkness for days or, even more important, the 24/7 citizenry debris-cleaning crews helping to clear the rubble needed power.
Psychological Aftershocks and Light
Darkness has a heavy psychological effect, fueling psychological “aftershocks” of the event. A little light and steadiness could have gone far.
By nightfall most rescue crews had gathered the tools they needed, but it would have been nice to be able to contribute something immediately to the effort. In the weeks that followed, there were also periodic shortages of mission-critical items like shovels, helmets, and gloves.
A motorcycle would have been useful. No, the streets of Mexico City didn’t collapse. They weren’t blocked by piles of concrete.
There was no electricity, so without orderly transitions from red lights to green, chaos ensues. Traffic congests, and ordinary citizens are forced to step in and direct traffic. A strong sense of being “entrapped” in an urban environment ensues.
Shortly after the quake, as I stood on one of the main north-to-south arteries in Mexico City, I witnessed a lone figure on a motorcycle zip out of the city. He was able to bypass traffic quickly and effectively, while the rest of us, reliant on suddenly impractical sedans and SUVs or worse– public transport– were stuck.
Luckily, the city remained calm throughout the duration of the recovery effort, but a motorcycle would have been a strong psychological tool telling me that if I need to get out I can.
3. A Life Straw
Luckily, the water lines in my neighborhood remained intact, but the Life Straw was peace of mind. Even with water available, I filled my bathtub with water as a precaution as soon as I confirmed that my house was safe to enter. That said, I was extremely grateful to at least be prepared with a Life Straw– the one item I did have the foresight to travel with.
In times of anxiety, the Life Straw meant that I may not have much food but I’ve got water, come what may. In a SHTF situation, a Life Straw will mean you don’t have to ration dwindling supplies or, worse, take your chances with unsafe, contaminated sources. Even if you aren’t in a life or death situation, a Life Straw will mean you don’t have to lug gallons of water from the nearest open store back to your shelter, saving you critical time and energy.
Purified Water From Spigots
With a Life Straw, I could have purified water from working spigots if need be. It would have been easy to share, too.
I never expected that my Life Straw would come in handy in a city where grocery stores, gas stations, and vending machines had bottled water readily available in normal conditions. Yet, here I was.
They always say that dehydration is a person’s worst enemy in exposed situations. I didn’t wrap my head around just how right they were until this day. I’d take a Life Straw over John Moses Browning’s famed 1911 pistol in most any survival situation.
4. A Power Bank
The next best thing to a generator would have been a portable power bank In a true SHTF situation, mobility and information are essential. You need a backup plan. Even if a building has power, it might not be safe to stay in it long enough to charge your phone.
Not captured in the figures about the earthquake are the many thousands of residents unable to return to their homes. They simply didn’t know if they were safe until a government inspection, which took weeks in many cases.
For the people forced to camp on the streets, because they don’t know if the cracks in their walls represented structural or cosmetic damage, a mobile power bank would have made all the difference.
While phones are not essential to survival, information is. Without the use of my phone, I couldn’t find out whether the airport was operating, where I should go to prepare for aftershocks and where to avoid, or whether my travel companions were okay. I was only able to mark myself as safe on Facebook to let friends and family at home know that I was okay before my phone died.
Besides being an information beacon, my smartphone had several tools that would have been invaluable during the crisis. I missed the flashlight feature most of all, especially without power indoors and without streetlights at nighttime.
It’s a 21st-Century luxury, yes, but my smartphone could have been in a 4-way tie for “Survival Tools For Which I Am Most Grateful”…if I only had a power bank to charge the thing.
After watching the devastation of several natural disasters hitting huge cities this past year, I now take prepping very, very seriously.
I was amazed at how 30 seconds of heavy shaking can threaten to tear up the fabric of a city. I was grateful to see the citizens of Mexico City act with calm and relative preparedness. This was a city that had experienced disaster before. It wasn’t ready (you never completely are), but it handled it well. I wouldn’t expect most other cities to do the same.
Mostly, I was surprised at how just four items could have made the difference between peace and panic as we lived through the Central Mexico Earthquake in September 2017.
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
This has been another entry for Round 76 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:
- A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
- A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
- A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
- DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
- Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
- A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
- Two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value), and
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.
- A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
- A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
- A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
- A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
- A Three-Day Deluxe Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $190 value),
- A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
- RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.
- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
- A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
- Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
- Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
- Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances, and
- Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).
Round 76 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.