One hundred days. That’s the amount of time the Willamette Valley is expected to be without electricity when the next megathrust earthquake strikes the Pacific Northwest. If you live in the region and just felt your heart crash to your stomach, welcome aboard. The longest I ever had to go without electricity—camping doesn’t count because it’s by choice—was a whopping thirty-seven hours. What would I have done if it had stayed off for a whopping 2,400 hours?

It is, beyond a doubt, a terrifying thought. But terror won’t help when that inevitable first day comes. Panic won’t help either.

Steps taken ahead of time will absolutely help, but before we think of steps to take, let’s dive into the scary stuff a little deeper. Electricity has become a resource we are highly dependent on. It’s scary enough to imagine a week without our computers, phones, and TVs, but a major power outage has consequences well beyond them. Without electricity, gasoline will not pump into our cars, water won’t flow from our sinks, food production will cease, communication systems will fail, and ATMs won’t provide cash. Stores will be forced to close, generators will run out of emergency fuel, and hospitals will struggle to provide care.

We can admit to ourselves that when the earthquake hits, it’s really going to suck. How badly it will suck largely depends on those steps you take. So, here are your first three steps.

  1. Check out this 5-minute video from the EIS council to get you thinking (and hopefully smiling a little).
  2. Come up with one thing you can do to mitigate the hardship and do that one thing. Whether it’s getting a flashlight and some extra batteries, having extra gasoline on hand, or setting up the supplies for a handwashing station and filling a jug of water, you won’t regret the step.
  3. Next week, repeat the process. Do it again, and again, and again until you think you can manage at least two weeks without electricity. The longer, the better.