Puget Sound residents: Plan for 7-10 days to survive a catastrophe

Local Mom Who Lived in NZ Tells Tale of “4 Earthquakes and a Baby,” and Encourages Local Families to Prepare
May 01, 2013
Susan McLaughlin is making sure her son Logan will be safe should an earthquake or other catastrophe strike Puget Sound.

Susan McLaughlin remembers September 4, 2010, like it was yesterday. That’s when the first of four devastating earthquakes hit Christchurch, the New Zealand city where she lived at the time.

Susan, who now lives in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle and works downtown, was seven months into her pregnancy when the first earthquake hit and the mother of an infant during the series of significant earthquakes that followed.

“When the first earthquake struck, it disrupted so many things we depend on in daily life,” recounts Susan. “For instance, communication: We had no power, no TV, and cell phone lines were jammed so we walked the streets at 5:00 a.m. on the morning of the quake to get news from neighbors, find a radio and to learn what to do.”

Nearly five months later, Susan had delivered a healthy baby boy, Logan (now age 2) when the second, most devastating earthquake caused the destruction of over half of the central city’s buildings, paralyzed citywide infrastructure and caused 185 deaths.

Once again without running water or electricity for an extended period of time, she now needed to take care of an infant’s clothes and cloth diapers in buckets with no running water.

People of all ages suffered without a functioning sewer system; “For a while, ‘dig a hole in your backyard,’ was the best that the Mayor could offer many people,” says Susan.

Today, Susan thinks about disaster preparedness here in the Puget Sound region, and she’s inspired to encourage others as well. “Having a child and feeling unprepared is an awful place to be,” she remembers.

Making a plan, building a kit and helping each other, on the other hand, gives families the tools to survive and offers peace of mind. Susan adds, “Doing simple things – like making a kit for my husband, son and me – makes me feel much more prepared for an earthquake or other disaster now.”

So, what does that mean? JoAnn Jordan, public education coordinator at the Seattle Office of Emergency Management, offers some guidance:  “It’s really important to plan for seven to 10 days.

Given the magnitude of earthquake that’s likely to occur in the Pacific Northwest, experience has shown it could take from several days to more than a week before essential services are restored, such as running water, electricity and phones.” Jordan’s office publishes a variety of resources to make planning easy in 19 languages.

First and foremost, Jordan recommends building a kit with enough of these items to last for seven to 10 days:

  • Storage container: a plastic bin, or even an old suitcase or backpacks, which you’ll store near an exit
  • Water: one gallon of water per person per day, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food: seven to 10 days of non-perishable foods per person and pet
  • Cash: small bills are best (ATMs won’t work without electricity)
  • Battery-powered radio and extra batteries
  • Flashlight and extra batteries (no candles!)
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Filter mask or cotton t-shirt to help filter the air
  • Moist towelettes for sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities, if needed
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Shelter items like tents, tarps and rope
  • Garbage bags and plastic ties for sanitation
  • Unique family needs: supplies for infants, pets and elderly; prescriptions; important family documents

As Susan puts it, “We can’t stop the next disaster from coming, but we can help our families and neighbors make it through. Plan to be a survivor!”

About “What to do to Make it Through”

Local agencies across Puget Sound are teaming up to educate and encourage citizens to prepare for catastrophic events with a regional campaign called “What to do to Make it Through.”

The program is made possible by a grant from the Puget Sound Offices of Emergency Management, with the support of partners including Mud Bay, KOMO-TV, KOMO News Radio and Star 101.5. The program serves to educate the public that catastrophes can happen at any time and encourage residents to prepare for the right duration—at least 7 to 10 days.

To learn the three most important things you can do to survive a catastrophe and start planning, visit: www.makeitthrough.org.

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