Here Thar Be Monsters!

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11.3.11

Shake, Rattle and Roll

Hoarding Food, Water, Supplies
People Without Basic Necessities
People Wish They Had Prepared Iodine Supply At Home

Honshu, Japan got hit with a whopper last night.  An 8.9 nerve-wrecker woke the residents up, then proceeded to flatten the area, followed by a tsunami to finish off whatever was left.  The wave was 33 feet high, according to reports.

I have experienced precisely ONE earthquake in my life.  As if happens, it was here in Jakarta on 2 September 2009, at 3pm round-abouts.  I was sitting on the couch in my apartment on the 23rd floor, watching TV, when I got the strangest feeling in my gut.  It was kind of like butterflies, but was centered in the pelvic girdle.  Within seconds, the world began to bounce up and down rhythmically with a period of about half a second.  That lasted for less than a minute and subsided to be immediately followed by lurching side-to-side for a full two minutes.

There was no way I could walk safely down 23 flights of stairs, so I simply stood helplessly in the bedroom doorway, holding on to the door posts and trembling like a Chihuahua on speed.  The coffee table was sliding back and forth across the room, along with the chairs.  Pictures were flapping on the walls and glasses were clanking in the cabinet.

I was a completely helpless feeling.  There was nowhere to run and no shelter.  There was only one choice and that was to ride it out.  It's a very strange feeling when a large, concrete building begins to shake as if a large child were grabbing it by the top and shaking it back and forth.

I have been through eight major hurricanes, a couple of dozen tornadoes, blizzards, floods, fires, and insect swarms.  For the most part, they are predictable and can be fought in a way to minimize damage.  It's not easy and preparation for them takes a lot of work, but you can at least get your mind set for them.

Not so earthquakes.  They happen with no warning.  You can't tune in the news and get moment-by-moment reports on the location and strength of an earthquake.  They defy preparation and in fact, the more rigid a building is, the more likely it is to experience damage.  Even fires are somewhat more controllable.  You can buy document safes, install sprinklers, set up exits, and distribute extinguishers.

But how to prepare for the world suddenly going soft under your feet?

Following my experience with a 7.4, I moved to a house.  I figured it was far better to be able to run out into the street naked than to try to surf slabs of concrete to the ground as a building collapsed.  Having the house also meant having the room to set up water storage on every level, with a resulting total of about 400 gallons divided between three floors.  I then bought a small generator that is enough to power a refrigerator or TV or phone charger.  Finally, I bought 7 hectare of land in the mountains as an escape hatch.

However, the problem with earthquakes is they can strike any time of the day or night.  You never know how strong they will be until they are done.  They can hit a hundred kilometers away or beneath and still destroy your house.  And counting after-shocks and tsunamis, they can have recurring attacks for up to several days.

Even volcanoes are nicer than that.

I'm sure there is a place in the world that is statistically the safest place to stand, and I am equally sure it is in the center of the Gobi desert.  The rest is all preparation.

Being prepared has nothing to do with surviving an event, like an earthquake.  That part is pretty much chance.  Take a look at tornado damage.  Those boogers can rip a house to shreds while leaving the neighbor ten feet away completely in tact.  Preparation is all about what happens if you live through it.  If you're dead, there's not much else to worry about, but if you're the poor sot that makes it through, then you're faced with not enough of at least a few things.

Thus, I have about a month's worth of severely rationed water and a Berkey filter, a month's worth of rice and other staples, an indoor garden, self-defense tools, and limited electrical generating capability, so long as the gasoline lasts.  That's enough to do one of two things, restore some normalcy or bug out.  It also let's me wait out the panic that invariably follows something that momentous.

The thing about preparation is that you never need it until you need it.  It's not all that complex.  You figure out what you need to survive, buy enough and rotate stock as you go to keep it fresh.  You would not walk into my house and think, "Oh my God, he's one of those people."  Other than a few supplies, preparedness is a mental process.

Looking at the rather horrific pictures coming out of Japan, I recall my limited experience with earthquakes.  The Richter scale is a logarithmic progression.  A 7.4 is significally less powerful than an 8.9.  I can only imagine the terror and adrenaline rush those poor folks are going through.  For the ones who've lost everything, no amount of preparedness can help them, other than the preparedness of the mind.

If one has thought out various options, explored escape routes, made mental notes about what to do in the event of certain variables, at least you have something to occupy your mind in the aftermath, other than shock at the horror in front of you.

At moments like those, people go into a kind of autopilot.  Those who are not prepared simply perish as they stumble blindly through the rubble begging for a glass of water.  Those who are prepared drop into whatever mode they hae mentally rehearsed and proceed to think their way forward until the shock wears off.

No matter what I've done, I have never managed to defeat the shock of the moment, but I have learned how to shift into a productive form of autopilot.  There are far too many changes to daily life for the mind to process, so giving it a routine of some sort is the best way to deal with the situation.

Ultimately, it comes down to: what will you do if you live?  Trying to live is pointless.  If the Universe has your number, there's not much choice in the matter.  But how will you live afterwards?  That's the question.  Will you wait for the Red Cross truck to drive through the rubble and toss a few boxes to hundreds of starving people who will fight to the death to get at them?  Or will you hunker down with your supplies and wait until sanity returns?

Hoping and praying you'll never have to face a disaster is not a rational course.  At some point, most of us face at least one.  Being physically and mentally prepared to face a disaster pays dividends beyond just survival.  It preserves dignity and hope, the two greatest civilizing forces.  Keeping both in the face of complete destruction pays a dividend that can not be measured.

Fate favors the prepared mind.  I figure it's always better to have Fate on my side in any case.

私達の祈りは悲しさの時の支えるように努める。

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