Today is National Earthquake Preparedness Day, and I’m Not Buying It

If an earthquake is so big and so destructive that you need to store CANNED MEATS? I think you have bigger problems!

Don’t everyone yell at me at once. I know, since I live in Los Angeles, I’m supposed to have 3 days worth of food, water, shelter, clothing, a battery operated radio, leather palmed gloves, a camping stove and first aid equipment packed away in a portable, yet bulky backpack outside of my home (close by of course) under a bench, buried, or in a plastic bin marked “Earthquake” in the backyard I don’t have... but folks, I have to tell you, I don’t. I don’t have an earthquake kit.

Am I a bad mother? Am I asking for it? Do I not realize the impact an earthquake can have? Did I not see the recent pictures of the quake in Mexico City? Don’t I know people who have been through the Northridge Quake? No, no, yes, yes and yes. But guess what? I still don’t have an earthquake kit.

The earthquake kit reminds me of the lifeboats equipped on airplanes. The odds of actually being on an aircraft that ditches (read crashes) in to a body of water and then surviving not only the impact, but the “sinking.” THEN somehow removing the 70 pound lifeboats from the ceiling compartments in which they’re stored, carrying them down the narrow aisle to an exit and finally deploying them, would be a miracle. Yes, I know it’s happened. In fact, it happened on the airline I worked for as a flight attendant for 7 years, USAirways. Miracle on the Hudson. (I love you Sully!) But to be clear, the rafts they depended on in that particular emergency, came from the slides embedded into the emergency doors that when “popped,” convert into rafts. I’m referring to the actual lifeboats that are required on aircraft going further than 400 miles over open water. All that extra weight on the airplane! For what? Folks, if you’re landing in open water, you have bigger problems than lifeboats; like impact and sharks!

When I was in flight attendant training we learned all about lifeboats. The training facility was a former elementary school and the gymnasium held a full-size mock-up of a Boeing 737 where we not only learned how to serve the classic entrees, chicken or beef, but we also re-enacted emergency situations, like plummeting into the ocean. The ditching drill began with an instructor acting as the lead flight attendant in an airplane has apparently “landed” on the ocean. She starts by ringing the call button six times and yelling the commands- “Release your seatbelt and get out! Release your seatbelt and get out! Leave Everything! Come This Way!”

Before I move on, I want to explain the bell system on airplanes. The bells you hear on a plane are actually coming from the cockpit and they signify something. On my airline, one bell meant the seat belt sign went on or off; two bells meant pick up the phone the pilot wants to talk with you; three bells meant it was safe to disarm the emergency door; and SIX bells meant- imminent crash! Impact now! I never did understand how the first officer was supposed to take the time to hit the call button 6 times before IMPACT, but who am I to question emergency procedures?

My fellow classmates and I heard the bells, followed the commands, and quickly evacuated the airplane as we were taught- jumping into the lifeboat (since the boat was on the floor of the gymnasium we weren’t really “jumping” as much as “stepping” into the lifeboat.) Then, we quickly took seats around the raft in a dignified and very non-life threatening way. Somewhere along the line, we inflated our life vests.

The instructor stood in the middle of the boat and talked about the “unlikely event of a water landing.” She explained that of course, there would be water all around. (Yes, I got that.) Then she talked about the emergency waterproof pouch that was tethered to the lifeboat. It contained among other things- flares, saline solution, a whistle, and Charm’s candies (for diabetics.) It also contained a songbook to “keep the passengers calm.” One of the flight attendants would need to lead the crash survivors in song, and let’s face it, it would probably be me! (I don’t remember the exact song titles, but they were probably along the lines of “Michael Row The Boat Ashore.”)

Look you guys, the odds of getting to the point that you’re floating around in the middle of the ocean in a lifeboat, blowing whistles and singing songs while waiting for help to arrive are…. well, let’s just say, I hope you never hear SIX bells over the Atlantic.

My point is, lifeboats on airplanes are pretty much just for show. Just like the earthquake kit. What are the odds that you’ll be in easy access of your emergency kit during an earthquake anyways? Frankly guys, I don’t have the real estate. I live in the city. I need the closet space for the clothes I wear now, not the clothes I’m going to wear in a disaster.

There are so many actual life saving items you would need to store for this magnitude of quake, that it’s impossible to prepare. If an earthquake is so big and so destructive that, not only your home is destroyed, but the entire TOWN is in rubble and you can’t stay with family or friends or in a shelter, and you need to pitch a TENT? You have much bigger problems than sleeping outdoors. If an earthquake is so big and so destructive that you need to store CANNED MEATS? I think you have bigger problems! And If an earthquake is so big and so catastrophic you feel that you need to store gallons upon gallons of water? Well guys, we’re in for a world of trouble because the shit isn’t going to hit the fan, the shit HAS hit the fan, and hopefully, we’re alive to smell it!

I have flashlights, candles, batteries, a couple jugs of water AND a songbook around. If the Big One hits, and I’m actually HOME, I’ll be glad to have them. I have these things for power outages anyways. But as for the earthquake kit? I pass. Because really, only one thing is required- cash. With cash, you can buy everything you need. Plus, it stores neatly and conveniently in my …. Hey! I’m not telling you!!

(And thank you in advance for your new concern for me.)

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