Saturday, March 6, 2021

Getting The Jump On Panic


I hear they're about to roll out a warning system for earthquakes around here. It's called ShakeAlert. Apparently this will give you three seconds' notice.
 
This is already in operation in California, where it might conceivably be of some use. They schedule earthquakes all the time in California. They're like zoom meetings: there are too many of them and nobody really enjoys them anymore, but at least everyone knows how they work. In California the ground goes sideways so often that people have their protocols memorized. 
 
Here, we get an earthquake every three hundred years. It's a doozy, but it's hard to anticipate.
 
So I imagine in California everyone has scoped out the safest place to hunker down during an earthquake, with the awareness changing from room to room as they walk through the house, and given three seconds' warning they can actually change their personal outcomes. They've rehearsed.
 
I have no idea what I would do with three seconds' warning. Pull a Q-Tip out of my ear, maybe. Or grab the toilet paper, if I could, since that's the first thing I'd need after the quake. Supposedly you should be able to get a warning from the birds and animals, even your own personal cat, although ours would have to wake up first and can't even get a whole yawn out in three seconds. And really, the birds are no help either. If all the birds fly away at once, it's going to be a Cooper's hawk just about every time, and an earthquake every three hundred years. So.
 
Now when I was working at the post office, there could have been some merit in a warning system. Everyone had a big metal sorting case they stood at, and if we make the charitable assumption that everyone is in fact working, and not wandering around with a football pool, that means everyone has something solid they can duck under during an earthquake. In theory. In reality, we had all sorts of things stashed underneath our cases where our bodies might have otherwise fit. Trays of vacation-hold mail, for instance. It's considered bad form to deliver someone's vacation mail after you've pooped all over it. Not unprecedented, but still poor from a public-relations standpoint.

There's another problem with the ShakeAlert warning system. It comes over your phone. I don't even know where my phone is. Everyone else has a phone in their pocket so I guess I should take it as a warning if everyone stopped suddenly and went "WAH! WAH! WAH!" Does it give me enough time to evacuate? In my shorts, maybe.

Let's just say I'm going to need more than three seconds. If you gave me two days' warning, I could probably assemble a proper bug-out bag of groceries, clothing, extra glasses, TP, and a tent. Maybe I could do that right now, but it would interfere with my mental-health policy of reducing anxiety through applied ignorance. And so far, that has served me very well.


48 comments:

  1. You always make me smile so big, oh my gosh I love my visits here! I mean that with no disrespect for the seriousness of the subject at all!

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    1. I'm not even serious about the serious subjects, so hoot away and welcome to it!

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  2. Here in Delaware, we merely have tremors once in a great while, and usually one doesn't even feel them. Even my parrots are oblivious.

    Only once did I actually feel one. It was the summer of '11, and I was preparing to lie down on the chaise on our deck at the precise moment that a tremor occurred. My chaise started shaking, and at first I thought, "Am I having a heart attack? Should it be causing the chaise to vibrate?" Then I realized that the deck was also shaking, and no heart attack radiate to that extent. It seems that I tend to panic over things that aren't actually happening, but when things actually go awry, my mind slows down and I can have entire conversations with myself in mere seconds.

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    1. I have a friend who was spending her first night in a new place and got up to take her first shower. At the precise moment she flicked on the bathroom fan switch, we had a 5.6. She flicked it right off again.

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    2. And no one bothered to tell me about that cause-and-effect.

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  3. I think that most of us would not benefit from a 3-second warning - mostly because we are not wed to our phones. I have a long association with quakes.

    1st quake: 1965-6 in Bellevue WA
    Biggest quake: 1989Oct17 in SF Bay area CA (Loma Prieta quake)
    Most quakes: 1980s in Los Angeles CA
    Smallest quakes: 2010-2021 in Derby KS
    Most quake drills: 2007-2010 FEMA office in Kansas City MO

    Most of the time, my phone isn't even turned on - not to mention that, although capable, my phone is not connected to the internet.

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    1. Mine either. I have a flip phone. My husband has one also, and only turns it on when we are not together, just in case something happens.

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    2. You know, this audience skews really old.

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    3. Survey? I'm 83. Still have all my marbles.

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    4. I'm 71 and have a mind like a steel sieve.

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    5. 65 next week, and I carry all my marbles IN a steel sieve.

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    6. 84 and counting

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    7. 68, but only on the outside.

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    8. Love every last dodderin' one of you, I do.

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  4. I think I read today that Iceland had thousands of earthquakes just yesterday. Maybe we should look to them for some advice.

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  5. You are brilliant to think of grabbing a roll of toilet paper since you will need it immediately. You are so funny.

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    1. Perhaps we should all stash rolls of toilet paper in various places in our homes. Because you never know. (I, personally, would add alcohol to those stashes. Just in case pooping oneself isn't enough.)

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    2. An excellent suggestion. And when random people drop by and notice all the stashes, we just explain they're for earthquakes.

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  6. I would add cat food to the booze/toilet paper stashes. Jazz NEEDS to know where his next meal is coming from.

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  7. My first move has invariably been to run out of my house and away from the lee of any building. Except in Alaska in winter. We lived on a granite outcrop over the Eagle River. I’d come awake to a quake and get as far as the front door, boots, kids, dog under my arm. Then I’d remember it was 20-below out there. I spent all our winter temblors starring at the inside of my front door.

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    1. I am to understand that when we get the big one, running anywhere will not be an option. (They're talking about 9+.)

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  8. You could pre-prepare a bug out bag but then you would have to conveniently be in the same room as the bag when a warning was sounded. Perhaps a bug out bag in every room? And one to carry everywhere you go, just in case.

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    1. It sounds similar to being "pre-engaged." I would assume that "pre-preparing" is preparing to prepare for something, then saying, "Pfft... fuck it," and going on to do something more fun.

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    2. Mind slip where I forgot what I was typing.

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  9. Applied ignorance works for me too. We've had a couple Earthquakes that made it all the way to Arizona, it's almost always at some obscene time of the Morning where by the time you fully wake up and realize what is happening and have time to react, it's already over. So, if you were going to be a grim statistic, you already were and probably didn't even see or hear it coming. Besides, Three Seconds doesn't give me time, at this Season of Life, to think any Thought thru to a logical conclusion... so it would be more beneficial for me to rely on dumb Luck.

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    1. Yeah...it would just be this weird, celestial "uh-oh" and then lights out.

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  10. Here in California it’s wildfires and earthquakes and dang I need to fasten rolls of TP to my body to be sure that necessity isn’t buried in debris or ashes. Thanks for giving me one more thing to obsess over.

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    1. I wonder do you refer to anything as a "four-roller?"

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  11. I'm from the Shaky Isles. What can I say...

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  12. I had just parked my car when the Loma Prieta quake (on Cop Car's list) struck. My first thought was, "Damn, I popped the clutch!" My second thought was "But my engine was off. Must be an earthquake." I sleep through most quakes. I hope that the quake warning system was, as suggested could be done long ago, hooked into chemical-industrial machinery so that the appropriate valves could be automatically opened or closed as needed to minimize catastrophes. Probably wasn't.

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    1. I don't know. I read about that but I can't remember if it's something they're doing or thinking of doing.

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    2. Jeremy--I, too, was parked - at the last traffic light (on N Mary Ave just N or Central Xpressway, Sunnyvale) on my way home from work. I cut my engine, then noticed that people were stopping to check their tires. Next, I stopped to mentally check whether I was parked over the BART line or if there was anything apt to fall on me. Then I relaxed and enjoyed the wave motion of the myriad cantilevered traffic lights along the street ahead of me.

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    3. That sounds downright soothing! My boys' little league coach saw the line of nearby hills waving and thought he must be having a stroke...

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  13. The best defence is a good offence, i.e. living as far from a quake zone as possible. If you're of the constipated tribe three seconds doesn't give you time to soil yourself. Wet yourself yes, but the other takes time and a magazine, preferably organic gardening or one of those frou-frou cottage things one likes to look at but can't be bothered to dust or clean the cat hair from in real life. So it's best for all concerned that we live on the prairies and our challenges are -50 windchills and seven foot snowbanks. Those are the kind of "quakings" a long sit and a magazine can make sense of. (A three second warning indeed! At my age - 75 - I can't even stand up that fast!)

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    1. I think it's the windchills stopping y'all up.

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  14. 3 seconds pfffft what good is that? De nada. I thrash around trying to figure out where the phone is buzzing.... swat pocket 1.... pocket 2...... pocket 3...... oh it’s over on the shelf dancing

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    1. However, if you're a surgeon with a scalpel inside a human...

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  15. Denial also works well, living as I do almost on top of the Hayward Fault. I am frankly more worried about some of the older houses up the hill coming sliding down. Figuring being 70 means quake need to be more than 7.0 to be worrisome. Besides, my husband stored a full three-day emergency kit in the garage. At least he says it is there, somewhere, behind all the boxes? But it has a bucket with a seat and toilet paper

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    1. Here, we had someone's house slide down a hill and into another house at the bottom. The insurance company wouldn't cover it because they didn't have any language about one's house being hit by another house.

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  16. Having read many of the articles on The Big One in the Cascadia subduction zone it ain’t gonna be pretty (when it hits). A Niner, not this 5.6 chicken shit. What will be most important after the three second warning is to have escaped dying beneath a bookcase, hurtling through space on one of them bridges or getting fried in a natural gas explosion. Then, if all is well your go bag might be useful as well as a place to live hundreds of miles away if the infrastructure collapses as predicted. Otherwise it will be a tad uncomfortable, me thinks, and a smart or flip phone won’t make a damn bit of difference unless you wanted to make a higher definition movie of the freaking event.

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    1. As always, I prefer not to imagine it, although when I do I am ALWAYS in bed in the dark with no clothes on, which for some reason seems important once the second floor has collapsed and I'm lurching around the yard nekkid. Also, it's cold.

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  17. I'm right with you on the "mental-health policy of reducing anxiety through applied ignorance." I try to stay away from all sources of news, gossip and family drama!

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