Not-Just-For-Alaska Earthquake Survival

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There comes a time when you will feel an earthquake here in Alaska, no matter where you live. Whether in South Central, Interior, North Slope, South East or the Aleutians, you will feel them.

What to do and how you survive them is all up to you.  There are two types in pseudo-geological terms to worry about, Shakers and Rollers.  The differences

image by Alaskan Dude

between both could be the reason and way to save your life.

A “Shaker” is the type of earthquake that will shake uncontrollably. It usually does not have life threatening effect unless it is higher on the Richter Scale.  It can leave buildings crumbling.  It can break water/sewer and main plumbing lines and at times has actually shifted buildings.  Damage from Shakers is usually minimal, but can be devastating. These are usually closer to the surface of the earth and are usually related to a pressure releases in the crust.  Imagine someone holding a glass to tightly, and it explodes. That is what is considered a “Shaker”.

A “Roller”, on the other hand, is a slippage between two different land masses, one on top of another.  Imagine someone with a truck hitting your little car, and you have that accordion like waves in the back of your car (depending on how fast it hits you). Those waves in your car are what can happen on the surface of the earth.

Rollers are frightening.  If you were here during the 2002 earthquakes, you know the devastation of what they did.  We may not have had much damage in the urban areas concerning buildings and such, but the scarring of the land was seen for hundreds of miles, as well as those in little villages or communities where cabins were literally moved off their foundations.

Now, what you and your family should do to survive is look at your surroundings.   Do you live in a newer or older house?  Are you near power lines?  Do you have either gas lines or a fuel oil tank?  Do you have water lines or a septic system?  These are something to look at, as it may be good or bad for your situation.

Owning a newer or older home (rentals included) are first to look at.  Do you see problems with the foundation?  Is the roof going bad?  Do you see problems with utility boxes and such on the side of the house?  If you see any problems, are they small or large?  Roofs that are going bad or sagging may collapse in the house.  Foundation issues (cracks, not sealed correctly, crumbling) may take the house off the foundation.  Keep an eye on your house and surroundings, and try to fix what problems you can.

Utilities and fuel lines are a touchy subject.  Power lines supply the electric, but if they snap off, can lead to igniting your house on fire, electrifying that gas meter or, in some cases, the fuel tank on the side of your house, which would be disastrous.  You can call your power company, and ask them if there are breaker lines which can be added at a minimal cost to your house if the main power lines snap.  They can be also added to the poles that hold the lines, and have been in areas that have quite a few trees.  I recommend cutting down branches near power lines as they can be the reason the lines snap. Your power company may do this free of charge if you call and ask about tree management vs. power lines.  It makes life easier for them down the road as well.

Water lines, wells, sewer and septic tanks are a huge problem. If you have water and well lines, they can snap.  In the case of a well, the earthquake may actually move the pump.  Not good.  If you are in a urban area and the lines snap and start flooding your house, you may not be able to do anything unless you know where the shut-off valve is near the street and inside your home. Wells that have their pumps shifted may not be able to get water.  Always know where the shut-off is for your water.  It may save you and your house.  Urban sewer lines are the same. There is a shut-off valve, but you may have to call your Water and Waste company to find out where it is.  As for septic tanks and if your main pipe busts, you are going to be in a world of hurt. You may have to go dig it up and repair it yourself.  Most septic systems are plastic now, but if you do not know the size of your piping, you may not be able to fix it. Also in the winter, trying to fix a broken plastic pipe may not be a good idea depending on the temperature.  The pipe glue may not stick if it is a low temperature.

Now that I have told you what to look for, here is what you may need just in case you cannot stay at your house and need to evacuate.

I would recommend a large-ish type backpack.  An older Army rucksack works well, and they are generally inexpensive.  Pack it with such items as:

1. a small first aid kit
2. some type of food that you and your family may like
3. small water purifying system with water bottle

4. all medications you will need for at least 2 weeks
5. warm clothes, socks and a pair of slippers. You will need to air out your shoes/boots when hunkering down for a night so not to have problems with your feet later.
6. a tent (light weight) or tarp in which to get out of the elements. (I recommend throwing in a couple of those thermal cellophane blankets, as you don’t have to just use them for a blanket but as a small tarp on the ground)
7. a light weight sleeping bag or blanket, depending on time of year
8. waterproof matches AND a lighter all in plastic bags. You can have soggy water proof matches, so sticking them in a plastic bag will assure that you WILL have a fire.
9. a small magazine or paper in a plastic bag. This will help with lighting a fire if the elements are a soggy or undesirable.
10. a bottle or two of HEAT.  Heat for your car is an excellent way to get a fire going quick as it is mainly alcohol.  Make sure to make a fire pit and only used it sparingly as it is EXTREMELY combustible.
11. toilet paper in a plastic bag
12. a light weight shovel
13. a small radio. There are the hand-cranked types, but these do not do so well in the cold.  Please be aware.
14. a small-ish aluminum pot in which to boil water for food or just to drink in case you do not have a purifier.
15. a eye dropper size bottle of bleach
16. a small bottle of body wash and a wash cloth. Do not use wipes as they can dry out your skin.
17. small bottle of lotion, just in case you do need it
18. toothbrush and toothpaste
19. chapstick or something similar
20. Sunglasses and any eye wear (an old pair of glasses in a case).

21. A firearm with at least one box of ammo or shells. (.22 and 12 gauge) NO MATTER WHAT!

These items are quick to grab and go in any situation. You will be the one who needs to figure out what other items will be needed.  If you have children make sure to put a light weight stuffed animal and coloring books with a small pack of crayons in their pack or yours.  It will help later with their emotions as it is their way to get their emotions out.

Winter brings more problems. You can use exactly what I recommended but in heavier duty clothing, tent and sleeping bags. You can also use a child’s sled to help with the items you bring.  Just make sure you have a sturdy rope so you can drag the bundles as well as having a sled that has higher sides.  If you are in tsunami areas, grab your bag and get to the highest elevation you can.  The higher you can get, the better chance you have of saving your life!

These are recommendations.  Always layer clothing!  Make sure that you have a plan whether going to a friend’s cabin, your own cabin, or hunkering it out.  Be safe, for you and your family. Only you can protect you and your family!

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I'm the original Survival Mom, and have been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more for 9 years.

4 thoughts on “Not-Just-For-Alaska Earthquake Survival”

  1. Rather than paper or a magazine for a fire starter, we save our dryer lint. I've read that petroleum jelly and lint (or bike inner tube) will light much better than paper alone.

  2. Cool, thanks Mom!

    Kim, we use paper as most people in Alaska who know the value of "Heat" in that little yellow bottle, know that lint doesn't always work if it gets soaked and petro jelly can freeze past 0 degrees and doesn't light well.

    The people who much on the iditarod use the paper/heat technique as it starts FAST and even in blizzards, and they usually start a fire in a metal trash can.

  3. I've been putting lint in cardboard egg cartons for years. Melt parrafin wax and pour over link until it's soaked. When it hardens, it's water proof and burns slow and steady. You can find parrafin wax in the canning section of Walmart or you local grocery store.

  4. I use the scraps of candle wax that are left in jar candles or stubs of candles that no longer have a wick, and melt them and pour over lint filled cardboard egg cartons. After it hardens, I cut them apart and we use them for fire starters for our woodstove. I always buy scented candles and using them for fire starters means we have a fragranced fire. lol. They work great and are lightweight and can be carried in a ziploc bag for less mess.

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