Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Laissez les bon temps roulez!

Yes, this will be another LA blogger earthquake post.  Sorry!  I returned to Los Angeles after 15 years away for school and assorted diversions and had forgotten the excitement of an earthquake.  Me no like earthquakes.

Last year, I was on this big disaster preparedness kick.  I did a lot of research and spent a couple of afternoons at the Army supply store buying stuff that I'll hopefully never have to use (e.g., water purification tablets, hand-crank emergency radio, etc.)

But even though I found an extremely detailed (almost scarily so) article on how to prepare a work emergency kit, I still haven't made one.  Where was I during our 5.6-8 quake?  At work.  

So my project for the weekend will be to make an emergency kit for work.  I want to put everything in a comfortable backpack, so I can grab that sucker and head out of here, stepping over my co-workers if necessary.  Kidding.  (do they read this?  don't think so).

Anyways - make one with me.  We can be crazy end-of-the world buddies together!  

And just to prove my credibility, here's an excerpt from a transcript of an online conversation with Dr. Morgan Page at the US Geological Survey:

San Diego, CA - Former East Coaster: Can you please discuss the idea that a major earthquake is predicted to hit Southern California in the next 30 years? Thank you!

Dr. Morgan Page: The probability of a magnitude 6.7 or greater earthquake occurring in the Los Angeles in the next 30 years is 97%. So it's almost certain.

The probabilities get smaller for even larger earthquakes.
For a magnitude 7 or greater, the probability over 30 years is 82%. For magnitude 7.5 or greater, it's 37%. For 8 or greater, it's 3%.

Forecasting California�s Earthquakes�What Can We Expect in the Next 30 Years?

I've cut and pasted the article below and have made little comments in blue type.  Here's a link to the full article:  

It's long and it's guaranteed to freak you out, especially when you imagine  yourself holding flashlight as you walk along the darkened streets wearing a dust mask in a poncho with reflective tape and latex gloves.  But a little preparation could potentially pay off big time, and you only have to do it once, then you can set it and forget it.   Here goes...

First things first:

  1. Evaluate where you work and how far you live from work. Don't think of it in regular transportation terms. Ask yourself what you would do if you had to get home without the use of a car or public transportation during an emergency.  (This is key - could you walk home?  Do you know anyone who lives within walking distance of your workplace?)
  2. Discuss with your family what you may do in an emergency if they can't reach you by cell phone. Discuss your options and what scenarios would be practical. Knowing what your actions may be will enable them to assist even if you can't communicate during the emergency.  If your family hears of an emergency, they may be able to pick up your kids, meet you at a meeting place, or be ready to spring into action when they get your call, text, or third-party message. Have a family action plan.  (Often times you can't call within the affected area.  Having a plan in place, or a third-party person to call can really help)
  3. Coordinate with your co-workers and exchange ideas for creating individual jump-and-run bags ideal for your situation, urban area, and workplace.  (Maybe you guys have cool co-workers - I'm on my own)
  4. If you work with someone who also lives near you, discuss in advance and plan on using the buddy system to get home together.
  5. Talk to management about turning kit-making into an office social or emergency planning exercise. Get permission for everyone to bring their items, pack them as a team, and make a store trip for forgotten supplies.
Get the backpack:

  • Use a large, canvas, water resistant backpack with several compartments and padded shoulder straps. A waist strap will help distribute weight and make the bag easier to carry long distances.Since you won't use this daily (and aren't buying for day to day durability) you can buy an inexpensive one from a discount store, military surplus store, dollar store, or even from a local thrift store. Offer a young relative a few bucks for their left over bag from last school year. It's all right to get one used or even with childish designs. Think function over fashion.

Blackouts have shut down many cities, forcing people to walk miles. Cell service can be spotty or nonexistent. Subways can be down and vehicles backed up because of non-working traffic lights. Think ahead! Make a plan!

Tape is your friend
  • Buy reflective tape. Visit a fabric or athletic store or look online for reflective tape. Buy 1-3 yards as you will add it to your backpack and other items if necessary. It's usually sold in rolls and is 1" wide or wider.
  • Add the reflective tape to the exterior of your backpack. Use fabric glue to attach it if you don't sew.
  • Attach the reflective tape to the back of the bag and the front straps.
  • Be generous with the tape. It may make you visible to drivers or emergency workers.
  • Save the leftover tape. You'll need it for other projects.
Other projects

  • Get a poncho or other rain gear that compacts nicely. Use something you already have if it is adequate. If you buy new, look for a brightly colored material (safety yellow is an option). This can protect you from the elements on a long walk, provide shelter, and (with the tape) identify you to drivers.
  • Add reflective tape to your poncho since wearing it may cover your backpack.
  • Pack the folded poncho in your backpack. If it doesn't fold into itself (as many do), you can compress it into a small bag to keep it out of your way.
  • You can also wrap thick rubber hair bands to compress it. Those will also come in handy to keep long hair out of the way during the emergency. (Hair in the eyes can obstruct vision in addition to being frustrating.)
  • Get a space blanket You can buy Mylar sheets (so-called space blankets) at hardware or camping supply stores. They are large, lightweight, waterproof and exceptionally thin. They come tightly packed (about the size of an ace bandage), and should be left in their original packaging until you need to use them. (They're very hard to refold once opened.) Because Mylar reflects heat, it can be used to retain body heat in extreme cold or to reflect away heat in extremely hot conditions.
  • Pack a whistle in your backpack. A whistle will make more noise with less effort than yelling if you become trapped. The higher pitch will also carry better than your voice.

Footwear is key - I'm sure all of us remembers the images of shop owners giving away sneakers to commuters (or in some cases, charging a ton) on 9/11
  • Pack a pair of athletic shoes in your back pack. In case of an emergency, you may have to run or walk long distances in unpredictable conditions. You don't want to do that in heels or stiff leather work shoes. Your safety may depend on moving quickly and traveling efficiently on foot. Athletic shoes are an absolute must in every person's grab-and-go work kit!
  • Don't use a new pair, as these can cause blisters; pack a pair that is broken in but not worn out, if possible. Even a worn pair is better than wingtips or heels.
  • Women should not pack dress flats or just a "comfortable" pair of shoes. Do not pack sandals! Pack athletic shoes with shock absorbing soles. If you don't have any, you should buy some and wear them a few times before adding to your bag.
  • Many athletic shoes have reflective trims but you can add more. You should still have some tape left over from the poncho and backpack.  (what is with this guy and the tape?)
  • Pack cotton crew athletic socks that are appropriate for your athletic shoes in terms of thickness.
  • Avoid low cut socks, as they don't protect your heels when walking long distances.
  • Women who wear skirts and dresses may benefit from packing knee high athletic socks to provide additional coverage for the legs.  (thank god my work uniform consists of jeans)
  • Stuff the socks into the shoes so as to conserve space and keep your footgear together.

First aid:

Create a small first aid kit using a quart or gallon size zipping storage bag. Label your bag. You can even add a piece of the reflective tape to make it easier to find if you drop it or are looking for it in a dark pack. Include the following items: 

  • Adhesive bandages: A few of each size will do. Pack mostly the 1" since they work well for blisters. Bandages that are foam instead of fabric offer more protection for blisters and can still be used for other first aid.
  • Antibiotic first aid ointment.
  • Benadryl or other antihistamine: Emergencies are not a good time to have an allergic reaction.
  • Epi-pen if you have been given one by your doctor for severe allergies. They're usually willing to write prescriptions for several so you can keep several available.
  • Prescription medication to last a day or two in a well-labeled container. If your medication changes, you need to update your kit. Be very specific when labeling describe the pill (or whatever), the dose, and what it treats. Don't forget an asthma inhaler if you are an asthmatic. You may be walking and air quality could be questionable.
  • Pain killers, such as aspirin. Look in the travel/trial size section of stores for small bottles.
  • Ace bandage: is great for rolled ankles or can be used to immobilize a limb.
  • Latex or vinyl gloves (if you are allergic to latex) are a must. You could be around injured people or need to treat someone with your first aid kit.
  • Anti-bacterial hand gel for cleaning up.
  • Wash cloth or hand towel: can be used for clean up, wiping a sweaty brow or signaling.
  • Find a travel/trial size of saline solution (or contact lens rewetting solution) and include it in your kit. Flushing eyes may be necessary for contact lens wearers or for anyone in dusty or polluted air. It can also be used to irrigate a wound.
  • Assorted gauze or other first aid items. You can use additional quart or gallon size plastic storage bags to keep items dry and organized.
Random supplies:

  • Maglite type flashlights are extremely durable but heavier aluminum flashlights. The larger ones can be used as a defensive weapon should you need it. Decide if you can tolerate the weight and have room.
  • Pack a small flashlight. Find at least a small or medium flashlight or head light and make sure it has fresh batteries. You won't get a warning on a massive power outage or evacuation. A flashlight is a must.
  • Avoid penlights: they're too small and dim and their batteries die quickly.
  • Look for a small to medium light that takes AA or C batteries. It depends on how much space you have, your needs and how much weight you can tolerate. Lightweight plastic flashlights are great. You don't need to spend a lot but make sure it works.
  • There are many newer, pocket-sized LED flashlights on the market that are less expensive (check discount), more durable (no bulbs to burn out or break), and produce more light per set of batteries.
  • Shakable flashlights have become popular but test its reliability, working time, and brightness before you rely on it in an emergency. If it takes too much of your energy to work, it won't do you any good.
  • Head-mounted torches (headlights) are more versatile and practical than hand-held torches (traditional hand flashlights).
  • You can go full size (D cell) if you have room and can stand the weight.
  • Add some leftover reflective tape to your flashlight, especially if it's black. It will save you from feeling around for it or having to dump your bag. It will also make it easier to find it it's dropped.
  • Smoke and debris can be choking during a fire or earthquake. A particle mask can be very helpful.
  • Pick up a dust face mask from your local hardware or paint store and add it to your kit. They only cost a few cents. If you need one, you really need one.  (And they might come handy in a pinch if you have a flatulent coworker.  No, but seriously, I'm going to have one of these babies.)
Getting around and communicating:

  • Getting lost can add insult to injury. Traffic patterns are often changed and you may find yourself walking through unknown areas. Keep a map with you of the city and note different routes to take out.  (A map is a good idea)
  • Pack a map of your city which includes streets and public transportation (subway stop) information. You may be forced to detour, disembark a train early, find an alternate route or find yourself in unfamiliar territory. Always keep a map to find the best way to your destination.
  • Write down a list of emergency contact numbers. Cell phone service may be down or your phone charge may not last. Consider keeping the numbers of friends or family near work, in between work and home, and someone who could pick you up and offer shelter. Keep the numbers stashed in your kit. (this is so true for me... the first time I lost my cell phone, I realized that I didn't even have Mr. Insomniac's number memorized.  Emergency numbers should be written down.)
  • Phone traffic may be heavy and connections hard to come by. Don't rely on calling information first. Your memory of numbers may also be strained in a stressful situation. Keep things written down. If you can, change the outgoing message on all your voicemails so loved ones know you are safe and can be advised of where you are headed to shelter.
  • If you do have cell service avoid talking to people for too long. Preserve your battery as much as you can.
  • You may be bombarded by family and friends trying to reach you. Speak only as long as necessary. Ignore unnecessary calls so excess ringing doesn't wear your battery down.
  • If you aren't able to get a call out but a client or someone else happens (Murphy's Law) to get through you can ask them to notify a friend or relative. Don't be shy. Once they find out you're in an emergency you can probably get most anyone to help out.
  • In-state or in-town calls may have a different success rate of completion than out of state calls. If you aren't having luck making a call you can try calling an out of state contact.
  • Consider a portable charging unit for your phone. There are solar and wind-up chargers available. Others often use a few small batteries and convert the power to give your phone a small charge. Check travel sites, mobile supplies or airport kiosk.
  • The internet can be useful in times like these, if it's available.  Facebook feeds, twitter, etc. can let friends/family know that you're okay or where you're headed.
C.R.E.A.M.  (cash rules everything around me, for you non Wu Tang fans)

  • Stash cash for public phones, food vending, or any thing else that could come up. Don't keep too much, just a few dollars and quarters.
  • Hide cash in your bag but not too much. You can often hide it under the sturdy cardboard bottom. You can use this for transportation cost (if you find a method) or to buy food or drink. Don't forget to include several quarters should you need to use a public phone and be able to find one.
  • Don't keep a lot of cash or advertise what you keep in your bag. You don't want your stash pilfered by a dishonest co-worker, customer or cleaning staff.
  • Pack a small pack of tissues and moist wipes. It may provide dual use in case the restroom facilities lack proper supplies. Think of the different things you may encounter on the way home. Every city and its facilities are different.

  • Multipurpose tools are available at most sporting goods or camping stores. The multi-purpose tool shown also has pliers which can be very handy.
  • Add a all purpose pocket tool or swiss army knife.
  • Hydrate and nourish! Water is heavy to carry but you will need to have plenty available. You'll also need high calorie snacks.
  • Keep at least one sealed bottle of water in your bag, pack more if you can stand the weight.
  • Refill your bottles as often as you safely can in an emergency.
  • Pack granola bars, protein bars, etc. that are high in calories and carbohydrates and store well long term. Food is not only necessary for energy it can be great for morale. Dried fruit is also an excellent option.
  • *Peanut butter (assuming you're not allergic to peanuts) comes in handy tubes. It is an excellent source of protien that does not require refrigeration or cooking.
  • If your children are at a nearby day care or you will be evacuating with them you should bring enough food and water for them as well.
  • It's better to have too much than too little. You can always give some away.  (or sell them for an exorbitant fee)
  • Many local radio stations switch to emergency programming during an emergency.
  • Tune in! Look for a small, battery operated FM radio or transistor radio for your bag. These can be found in discount stores or electronic stores for minimal investment. All public radio will begin emergency broadcasting if there is an emergency in your area. Make sure it has fresh batteries and is turned off before adding it to your bag.
  • Add a luggage tag with your name and contact information to your bag. If possible, add some form of identification inside your bag such as an old employee ID. You may have left behind your handbag.
  • Tape an extra house key into the bottom of the bag underneath the cardboard bottom (with your money). If you leave a house key, don't add anything to identify it as such. A spare car key could also be helpful depending on your situation. Don't put your address on your luggage tag if you keep a spare key.
  • Resist the urge to tap into your bag for a bottle of water, band-aid, etc. Keep the kit intact and only open it to check medication expiration dates, check or replace batteries or to replace dated food.

Keep the bag safe, and keep it well

  • Everything you need will fit easily in a back pack. If you live in colder climates you can add additional supplies or change your pack for the seasons.
  • Pack your bag and store it in a locker, under your desk, in a filing cabinet nearby or somewhere where it can be grabbed in a hurry. If in doubt, grab it.  (it would be so my luck to have a bag, and then not bring it for some dumb reason.)
  • Take it for fire drills, alarms or keep it handy when news has reached you of an emergency in your city.
  • You may not realize you are in a evacuation situation until you've been separated from your kit.
  • In large cities, earthquake or tornado prone areas and in large office buildings it is wise to be a little paranoid.
  • Renew your kit regularly. Check the perishables (batteries, food, and first aid items) for expiration, leaking, or borrowing. Verify that maps and phone numbers are all up-to-date. You might want to check twice a year, perhaps when you replace your smoke detector batteries, set clocks forward or back for savings time, use family birthdays as reminders or set the reminders on your desktop calendar. At least check once a year on a reminder date, such as 9/11.


  • Keep batteries in store packaging as placing batteries in devices allows them to slowly discharge. Have scissors or your multi-purpose or Swiss army knife to cut open the package or store batteries in a marked plastic bag.
  • Reverse the batteries or use another method to prevent the flashlight and radio from coming on when not in use. You don't want to rustle the bag and unknowingly turn on the item and drain the battery.
  • Try adding a piece of duct tape or medical tape to the on/off switches of flashlights and batteries. You don't want to accidentally rustle the bag under your desk and turn the item on. You'll have dead batteries when you need them.
  • If you work in flood prone areas or areas known for drainage issues, you should keep a pair of appropriate waterproof footwear.
  • Buy a metro card or public transit pass and keep it stashed in your bag. If you get to a station that's operational you can skip the ticket counter or not have to worry about finding cash or exact change.
  • Think about your climate and add to your kit to allow you to travel more comfortably in areas with severe and possibly dangerous temperatures.
  • If you live in a severely cold climate area, you could also add a pair of sweatpants, hats, thermal underwear or other cooler weather wear. Something super warm may be needed instead of fashionable to and from work wear. You could pack a larger pack.
  • If you live in a hot weather climate where exposure and heat could be harmful you should think of packing a lightweight shirt, shorts, a hat and additional water.
  • Keep the bag in your locker or under your desk. Don't keep it in an underground parking garage as you may not have time or the access to retrieve it. If you can, stock an extra kit more appropriate for your car.
  • If you have a slightly larger back pack, you may have room to stash your handbag or a wallet inside. Don't concern yourself with briefcases and laptops, just get what you need to survive on the streets for hours. For the NYC blackouts many were attempting to travel with books, files, briefcases and non-essentials. They were throwing these away or asking strangers and business to hold the items with some success.
  • Lip balm and sunscreen are also extremely handy to have.
  • You may not need to buy everything at once. You can probably borrow from your home medicine cabinet and tool box to get started. Instead of buying full sized products you should visit the travel size section in your local drug or department store for other items. The packaging will be small and easy to pack.
  • Laptops, expensive jewelry and furs could make you a target for robbery. Consider leaving what you can at work and traveling with less ostentatious looking items.
  • With Blackberry, iPhone and smart PDA's you will have accessibility and mobility and can safely leave the office without hauling laptops.
  • A mechanical pencil, a notepad and a book of matches or lighter would be smart additions to the kit.
  • Consider adding a pair of safety glasses to your kit. These can be especially helpful to prevent foreign matter, dust, blood or other irritants from your eyes. These can be purchased at some drug stores, safety supply, construction supply or medical supply stores. You can also find them online. They are inexpensive and many can be placed over everyday glasses.
  • If you are packing multiple battery powered devices, try to choose ones that use the same type of battery. You can then pack an extra set that works for both and will be able to trade off in the devices.

  • You may be tempted to add mace, a stun gun or other weapon to your bag. Use caution since it may be against company policy to keep such items at work.  (yeah, this might not be the best idea.)
  • Audible/Personal alarms work very well to scare a possible attacker.
  • Always make sure you have latex or vinyl gloves in your kit. Blood born pathogens are very real and not everyone is upfront or knows about infections or health problems. You may also encounter injured people or need to treat someone with your first aid kit. Don't forget to wear your gloves. The gloves can also be handy if you must treat yourself and have dirty hands. It will help keep the first aid process cleaner and reduce your risk of infection.

Things You'll Need
  • Athletic shoes with shock absorbing soles
  • Crew or long athletic socks
  • Flashlight with batteries - LED Flashlight lasts longer and runs on smaller batteries
  • Small radio with batteries
  • Map of your city
  • Backpack
  • Water
  • Easy to store foods that are high in calories and carbohydrates
  • First Aid Kit
  • Cash and quarters
  • Form of ID (hidden in bag)
  • Spare house key (hidden in bag)
  • Poncho or other rain gear
  • Phone numbers of friends and family
  • Extra cell battery
  • Pain killers and anti-histamines
  • Dust or particulate mask
  • Scotchbrite or other reflective fabric to enhance you and your items for safety (optional but suggested)
  • Work Gloves - useful for moving heavy, sharp or abrasive items as well as keeping your hands warm
  • Sun Screen
  • Thin, Warm "Beanie" hat
  • Whistle
  • Multi Tool (Leatherman) or a pocket knife
  • Emergency Blanket/Space Blanket/Survival Blanket (Approximately a 4'x6' Mylar sheet. When packaged they measure about 3"x4" and weigh just a few ounces.)
  • Firestarting supplies (matches)


Dunc said...

Sweet Jesus, you're prepared. Let the good times roll!

WeezerMonkey said...

I used to be able to walk home.
Mr. Monkey still can.

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