I admit it. Sometimes I feel silly about maintaining an emergency preparedness kit. It is prudent to have a kit considering Whidbey Island’s potential for disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis, and wild weather. Decades of keeping a kit that is never needed is where the silly feeling comes in. And then we get whammed by something completely different. It took me a month to realize coronavirus was an opportunity to update the kit. And then the coincidence hit. It looks like the County agrees it is time to consider updating emergency plans, coincidentally.
We are spoiled. Despite griping about power outages and storms, none of the service interruptions in the last couple of decades have lasted long enough for me to need my kit. Whew. Let’s hope that’s the case for many more decades. Earthquakes are like that, unpredictable. The Salish Sea doesn’t get as many as other places along the Pacific Rim of Fire (a great, dramatic title), but it does get the bigger ones, like the ones that hit Indonesia, Chile, and Japan. (I like Nick Zentner’s primer on Puget Sound quakes.)
Getting ready for a quake and then getting hit by a pandemic is like preparing an ice cream social and finding that the guests are lactose intolerant and watching their sugar intake. (I do miss ice cream. Pardon me as I reminisce. Mmm.) Congratulations for preparation, but zero points for implementation.
And then I needed a mask. (Actually, I need lots of masks, but that story won’t be told until after they arrive.) Ah ha! I have several kits. There’s the big one for the house. Another is in the truck, in case I have to sit and stay, or walk to some safer place. The one at the office isn’t as extensive, but it helps complete the picture. Don’t be surprised. I’m an engineer who had to deal with failure modes. Backups, backups, backups. Ta da! A mask! The truck had a supply in case of ash clouds, dust storms, or maybe just a bad pollen day.
OK. But, a month has gone by and I realized that: 1) the kits are handy, and 2) I hadn’t thoroughly sorted through the house kit in years. Grab the hand truck. Wheel the kit/trash cans into the carport. Pull everything out, being careful to look for leaks.
Spiders? They get everywhere! What did they find to eat? Not much. Whew. One bar of soap was oozing out of its package. So much for the fancy soaps. It was on sale, but I think I’ll find something more shelf stable. The dried foods are all OK, or at least don’t look or smell bad. The Use-By dates on the food and medicines are hilariously out of date. Is Advil still good after a decade? Unfortunately, this is not the time nor the financial situation for replacing the old with new.
Really, the kit wasn’t that bad. With the recent shopping shortages, I chuckled when I realized there wasn’t any toilet paper in the kit. Changed that. I also added some extra clothes and another pair of shoes (retired running shoes.) I thought there was a saw in there. Something to add. Something to replace: the 80 proof vodka with 100 proof vodka. More sanitary the better! Inside and out. Besides, the bottle is plastic and sweating. Can the alcohol or the water leach out through plastic? Interesting.
The kit was designed assuming utilities aren’t available: power, water, septic. All of those are available during this crisis. Imagine going through Stay Home without the Internet. That’s harder to pack. Limits must be defined. Except for replacing the food and drugs, and either charging or replacing the emergency light/radio, the kits are good enough for now.
And then; “Island County Department of Emergency Management is in the process of updating its Hazard Mitigation Plan.” The notice popped up on Facebook. Even just describing their plan takes them 216 pages. Not a surprise. Whidbey is a large and varied island. They have plans for drought (we do get them), floods (mostly but not entirely a shoreline issue), storms (they’re common enough), and earthquakes (which few knew was an issue fifty years ago.) Hmm. I couldn’t find the tsunami info.
Considering what we’re going through with a pandemic makes it easier, and scarier, to imagine what life would be like after a major earthquake. We would still have to worry about contagious diseases, through probably not to the extent of Covid-19. But we might be under mobility restrictions that are more severe and non-negotiable. Trees down, and tangled with power lines. Bridges and ferry operations interrupted. Forget about shopping while wearing masks and gloves. The stores may not be open even if getting to them wasn’t a problem.
It is hard to stop after getting started making a kit. Recently I added a tent. Glad for that. Looking forward to buying a solar oven for occasional use, and as an emergency backup. Same thing with a solar charger for electronics. But what to do with the film camera that was supposedly only good until 2010? It is meant for documenting damage for insurance, but I don’t know the film can be developed. Keep it for nostalgia? Are there such things as disposable digital cameras with removable batteries? I might have to go onto eBay for an old point and shoot that works from AAs. Maybe before the next time I need the kit…
(Writer’s note: One of the dangers of writing about food is that I now want ice cream, which I can’t eat. That’s going to mess with my dinner. How much popcorn will satisfy that urge? Butter, more butter.)