Our View: Be prepared, not afraid

Written by Del Norte Triplicate March 27, 2012 05:00 pm

What to make of a worst-case scenario?

There’s a temptation to dismiss it as flat-out unlikely. You can’t go through life worrying about the worst that can happen, such as a mammoth earthquake occurring at high tide during a storm.

That’s one reason the experts would do well to equally publicize all the possibilities when it comes to a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake and tsunami. Otherwise, as emergency planners go about their business, the rest of us might think they’re just being alarmists.

When Cindy Henderson apprised the City Council last week of the latest estimated results of a massive earthquake followed by a tsunami at high tide, she didn’t hide the startlingly high casualty projections for Crescent City subsequently reported in Saturday’s Triplicate. The county’s emergency services manager also noted that the casualties would be much lower if we’re properly educated and prepared.

Call that her attempt to achieve job security and a bigger budget if you’d like, but do so at your own peril. Because peril, and precaution, are what this is all about.

First, let’s get past the notion that we’re all doomed. There’s a disconnect between human and geologic time. The Big One may not arrive in our lifetime, or our children’s, or their children’s. And if it does, it’s just as likely to occur at low tide on a calm day when the resulting tsunami would be lower than the tidal waves of 1964, although much quicker to arrive. It also might happen at night, when fewer people would be in the potential inundation zone.

All that said, the latest data compiled by the Department of Homeland Security is sobering because in terms of tsunami vulnerability from Mendocino to British Columbia our worst-case scenario is, well, the worst. That means our preparations need to be the best.

Have you thought about how you’ll get to high ground within five minutes of when the shaking stops? You should.

Have you considered setting aside enough water, nonperishable food and other emergency supplies to get by for several days? You should.

The worst-case scenario can be a bogeyman in the closet. Or it can be a useful tool, motivating us to take steps toward self-sufficiency and community awareness. That’s what the neighbors-helping-neighbors meetings that kicked off Saturday in Gasquet are all about. It’s why this is Tsunami Preparedness Week, and why the entire North Coast will test tsunami warning systems Wednesday.

Get prepared, then get on with your life. This is a great place to live, and it always will be.