Earthquake! The Fixin’ Leaks and Leeks Team Learns What to Do

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Crack in the foundation of our patio. It was most likely there before the earthquake, but I was running out of ideas for a photo to accompany this piece.  I thought about drawing a picture, but that would help no one.   Photo by Cecilia Kennedy

A violently shaking alarm clock that rattles the entire bed frame, is something I’d secretly hoped would be invented for teens in order to get them off to school on time. It would also make loud, howling noises that sound like a freight train coming straight for the house.  However, after experiencing my first real earthquake in my new home in the state of Washington, I realize what a horribly cruel idea that would be.  At around 2:50 a.m., Nate and I were jolted awake by loud rattling noises and our bed was shaking back and forth. We could feel the whole house swaying.  Immediately, I knew how this scenario could have appeared to Nate, since I like to write horror stories.  He could have been thinking, “Great. Now Cecilia’s done it. She’s written enough horror/ghost stories to invite terrible spirits into our house to shake our bed.” To make sure that Nate knew exactly what was going on, I shouted, “Earthquake! Earthquake!” Nate’s frantic screams that echoed the “earthquake” message, indicated that I’d gotten my point across, because I sure as heck was not going to let the characters in my stories take the blame for shaking up the entire neighborhood.

The quake probably only lasted about 15-30 seconds, but after screaming, I tried to get a hold of myself and ask if we should get under the bed.

“I don’t fit!” Nate yelled.  “I don’t fit!”

I’m a bit smaller, so I could have probably fit, but I figured I’d honor our wedding vows. For better or for worse, I was staying in bed with Nate.   Together, we held onto the sides of the mattress, looked up at the ceiling and screamed, “Earthquake!” again.  Then, I tried to imagine what was under our bed. Why wouldn’t we fit?  It’s probably because we have things stored under there, like huge containers of weight-lifting whey protein powder—and perhaps some boxes?  (I imagine that, in the middle of the night, the boxes and the protein powder challenge each other to very quiet burpee and squat competitions. I should probably film that someday.)

Then, the shaking stopped.  Alex joined us in our room, and we were all thankful that the earthquake was not much worse. The house was fine. The very expressive and emotional lawn chairs, which challenge each other to show downs while I’m running on the treadmill, were fine.  The treadmill was fine.  The cars were fine. There were no cracks on the ceiling, etc.

“So what do you think it rated on the Richter Scale?” I asked.

“Oh, it was definitely a 6.0,” Nate replied.

Nate sounded pretty confident about his predictions—like he was a seismologist on the side or something.  He sounded very convincing.  It took at least an hour later before he could get his predictions confirmed by real seismologists.  When the official word came in, we learned that we had survived an earthquake of the magnitude of a 4.6 or 4.7. (The epicenter was only about 20 minutes from our house.) It was somewhat of a “baby” quake, but enough for us to really, really want ice cream to calm our nerves.

Now, I know what you’re all really thinking: What about the cat? SeaTac is our favorite member of the Fixin’ Leaks and Leeks Team! What happened to the cat?

The cat’s fine, but I’m beginning to realize that my expectations for him are a little too high.  I’ve pretty much resigned myself to the fact that he won’t give cat facials for $50 an hour as a kind of “side-hustle” for extra income, but now I’ve got to resign myself to the fact that during an actual emergency, we might not be able to depend on him. Here’s how I know: During the actual shaking part of the earthquake, he just slept on the couch. Then, when we finally got up, he strategically placed himself near large pieces of furniture that could fall on him, especially if there were aftershocks.  So, here’s the lesson learned:  Do not do anything SeaTac the cat would do during an emergency.  Do the opposite. Every day is “opposite day” during an emergency, if you are taking the lead from SeaTac.

This whole experience though, has made me think about Earthquake preparedness.  Removing heavy objects from near and around our heads, while we sleep is now my main focus.

Me:  Alex’s headboard has specially carved out places for knick-knacks.  Knick-knacks could fall on Alex’s head while he’s sleeping, Nate! Knick-knacks! He’ll be impaled!

Nate:  Why don’t we have ice cream?  We should always have an emergency container of ice cream in the freezer.

Me: But knick-knacks! On our son’s head!

Nate:  Knick-knack paddy whack, give the dog a bone. . .

So, I stormed over to Alex’s bedroom in an attempt to show Nate the horrors and dangers that surrounded him, but I only found a 4X6 picture frame, a bandana, and a small tiki souvenir from Hawaii.  No boulders, rocks, or medieval spiked clubs.  Whew!

Yet, I still wanted to know what we should have done during the earthquake. Luckily, the Red Cross, the CDC, and other experts who would probably always have ice cream in their freezers during an emergency, offer the following tips:

  • The Red Cross, in the web article, “Earthquake Safety,” advises to never get out of bed. If you are in bed during an earthquake, it’s best to curl up on the side and cover your head in order to protect vital organs—and the noggin.  Staring face up at the ceiling and shouting, “Earthquake!” is not mentioned.  Also, crawling under the bed to amuse yourself with a protein powder/cardboard box squat/burpee competition is not mentioned, either.
  • Anywhere else in the house, according to this same article, you’re supposed to STOP, DROP, and HOLD ON! In other words, if it’s possible, get under a heavy piece of furniture and hold on tightly to the leg of that piece of furniture. During the earthquake early Friday morning, I did hold on—to my bladder.  Shaking + a full bladder made the 4.6/4.7 magnitude event seem like a bus ride over railroad tracks, with potholes in between.  For the next quake, I may have to hang tsunami warning signs outside the bedroom door—with suggested evacuation routes.
  • Emergency supplies: The CDC has a very handy list for all of the places you might find yourself during an earthquake:  home, the office, or the car.  I’m wondering where to place the home kit because I don’t know if we will be on the first or second floor when the earthquake strikes.  We have most everything on the list (except for bottled water), but who is going to run upstairs and get that kit if we’re all on the first floor? Definitely not the cat!  So maybe we should create and stash kits in every room/floor of the house—kind of like how I’ve done with my “crafting nooks.” The work and car supplies lists, on the other hand, are somewhat different, but they both include whistles to use as a “signal.”

Me:  Could you imagine if everyone at your work had a whistle?  No one would do any work!

Nate: Actually, there is a woman who has bottled water, granola bars, and a whistle at her desk—precisely for earthquake preparedness.

Me:  Wow! Everyone would be at her desk for an earthquake party blow out! Good for her!

And now, I’m wondering why the home earthquake kit does not have a whistle included.  I completely understand why fireworks aren’t included, but why not a whistle?  Or ice cream?  At the end of the earthquake, we could send Nate downstairs to check on the house.  We could put the whistle in the freezer, next to the ice cream. Then, he could blow the whistle, thus signaling that it’s okay to eat ice cream. Except, it would be too tempting to just blow whistles and eat ice cream every time I finish a load of laundry—and that would be really scary for everyone.

Your Turn:  Are you prepared in case of an emergency? What emergency plans to you have in place?

40 thoughts on “Earthquake! The Fixin’ Leaks and Leeks Team Learns What to Do

  1. Earthquake is one of the disasters we haven’t focused on much. Being where we are probability is pretty low. We do try to be prepared though – this week with the extreme heat in the forecast there is likelihood of power outage. Our biggest threat will be loosing all the food in our freezers. We have an extra can of gas on hand to help keep our neighbors generator going – then they will hook up to our freezers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good to hear that all was okay. I experienced a 4.5 earthquake a few years ago and it was pretty disconcerting, to say the least. I was in a second floor condo and the building was swaying. For a few seconds I thought it was going to tip right over. I am not much prepared for a bad one – a little.

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  3. I am completely unprepared for any disaster. The only time I experienced an ‘earthquake’ in Arizona was when hit near the border with California. I was sitting on my couch and suddenly it felt like a large person whip checked it — a rea tiny jolt. And that was it.

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      1. I thought a poltergeist hit my couch. Then I wondered if my AC unit had shifted, but then my couch wasn’t touching the wall, so I Googled earthquake and yep, one had hit CA. And I used to work in a tall office building in Phoenix, but after I left that company my friends there told me the building started swaying from an earthquake in CA.

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  4. I have an emergency bag, last updated after Kaikoura at the end of 2016 I think. It is so heavy, I can’t imagine grabbing it and running down all the steps from our house to the car. But it is a good idea, and I do have emergency supplies. You should also keep a stash of cash in case the networks go down, and ideally a fixed telephone line too.

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  5. You also have to worry about that huge mountain blowing up in your area! mud slides, volcano ash, basically hell on earth! I would immediately go and purchase tons of ice cream, place a freezer under your bed (who needs whey in an emergency?) and instead of a whistle get one of those air compressor bull horns that you use on ships or boats (they carry small sizes at WalMart). That way when you are out of breath from screaming EARTHQUAKE you won’t have to worry about having air to blow a whistle.
    We have a 4-5 day extra supply of food (ice cream is not on our list) and cash on hand just in case the world decides to go to heck and we don’t get the email/text message/carrier pigeon notice.

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    1. Yes–placing a freezer under the bed makes so much sense–thank you! I now see as well that air compressor bull horns are extremely necessary. I’ve been going about everything all wrong–thanks for setting me straight:)

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  6. Glad it wasn’t worse! (And hope you got your ice cream eventually?) We don’t have many earthquakes in the UK, so we’re not prepared at all. In fact, I don’t think we have flooding plans either (we live on a hill!) Plenty of candles if the power goes out though, and well stocked food cupboards since we buy in bulk 🙂

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  7. glad to hear you are all ok. I would have no idea what to do in the case of an earthquake. When we lived in Orlando we had everything for hurricanes… now that we live in Pittsburgh we get prepared for snow/ice storms in the winter. The nice thing with both of those cases you typically know they are coming a few days in advance

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  8. As someone that grew up in the Southern California school system, I know that the only truly safe place is under a school desk. Total protection from earthquakes, nukes, and commie invasions. But I also know how scary they can be (I’ve been in two >6, but not as close to the center as you). You don’t know how long it will last, how close it is, and if it’s going to build in strength. And why do they have to hit while you’re in bed? One hell of an alarm clock.

    But do make sure all cabinets, dressers, etc are attached to a wall.

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    1. Thanks, Jay! A stepladder did fall on my car, but the car is okay. We’re going to secure shelves, etc. in the garage. Most everything else in the house seems to be okay for now. Alex’s ceramics projects don’t stand a chance, but that’s why we take lots of pictures.

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  9. Yikes! This sort of thing doesn’t really happen in the UK (only on a rare & minor basis) so we’re lucky in that respect. I’m glad things weren’t worse and that you’re all okay. I love Nate’s response of emergency ice-cream, that sounds like a good idea in times of panic 😉
    Caz xx

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  10. So glad you’re all ok. We don’t really need to be as prepared for environmental emergencies as you guys, but I will stock up on ice-cream, seems prudent. Only experienced a very minor tremor here years ago. Our main risk in UK is flooding and what seems like more frequent storms. The UK isn’t infrastructured for what are relatively rare catastrophes. We’ve talked through a flood plan, depending on how much time we’d have. And we have a fire evacuation plan! It mostly focuses on saving the cat.

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  11. I live in CA, so, yes, thankfully, my husband keeps emergency supplies of water, non-perishable food, and more, handy. Not sure there’s a whistle in there, though, so perhaps I’ll mention that to him. No cat to learn what NOT to do. I’ll have to observe our chickens if we have a decent-sized earthquake, to see if they’re smart about it. We do, however, always have ice cream in the freezer. So, truly, we’d be fine. 🙂

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  12. Wow, that was scary! I’m glad you guys are safe! We don’t have earthquakes where I live, but I always keep my phone plugged in with the charger and the important stuff (wallet and keys) in a small purse right by my bed, so in case I need to jump out of my house in seconds, I’m pretty sure I can do it. I’ll have to think about what else I can do! Thanks for the PSA!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Always a good idea just in case! Or maybe it’s me being paranoid because I constantly think my house will collapse suddenly for no reason! But it can’t hurt to be prepared! 🙂 Glad you are all safe!

        Liked by 1 person

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