Why Prepare?

Let’s say the Cascadia Subduction Zone doesn’t produce a megathrust earthquake in the next 50 years. Why prepare for it? First, the earthquake could happen at any time, so be ready. But here’s the thing. Getting prepared for an earthquake prepares you for other emergencies too. Here are examples of how being prepared has helped me during the past four years.

2018

Salem’s water supply became unsafe to drink due to a cyanotoxin (blue-green algae) bloom. Within minutes of the City’s alert, stores sold out of packaged water. Over a two-week stretch, during the hot summer months, the City of Salem distributed water at various stations. Lines were long.

Because my family had two weeks of water stored (one gallon of water/person/day) for the earthquake, we didn’t have to wait in lines at the distribution centers.

2019

In the Fall of 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic began to sweep across the globe. The initial months were certainly the most ambiguous. How the virus spread, how virulent it was, how deadly it was, who was most at risk, and whether there would be long-term effects were all unknowns. The world shut down.

Because my family had prepared for the earthquake, we had extra hand sanitizer, a few masks, disinfectant wipes, and plenty of toilet paper and paper towels to get us through that initial shutdown.

2020

Critically hot and dry weather conditions sparked multiple fires throughout Oregon in September of 2020. Fall winds pushed them west, sending the flames toward cities up and down the Willamette Valley. PM2.5 levels rose well past the minimum value for hazardous air. Ash rained down from red and orange skies. (I took this picture).

Because we’d prepared for the earthquake, my family had emergency alerts set up on our phone, our go-bags were packed, our FEMA Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK) was filled out, and we had masks that protected against PM2.5 smoke particles.

2021

A historic ice storm swept through much of the PNW over a three-day period in February of 2021, leaving families without electricity for up to two weeks. Water stopped pouring from faucets in some neighborhoods. Nights were cold and the sounds of limbs crashing sounded like explosions. Powerlines, trees, and limbs littered roads.

My family had flashlights, hand and toe warmers, an EcoZoom to boil water and cook food on, bottled water, and backup emergency meals—because we’d prepared for an earthquake that hasn’t yet come.

Am I saying that my family’s past preparedness efforts turned the above disasters into ‘no big deal events‘ for us? Absolutely not. Every one of those situations has been hard. Some have been horrendous. But each disaster was easier because of our preparedness efforts. Our stress was lower, our resiliency higher. Every step you take, every item you gather will make a difference for whatever comes next.

Future Outlook

What the near future has in store for us is anyone’s guess. However, the following situations could make good use of any emergency supplies you gather, as well as plans you put in place.

Solar Storms

The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) states, “Space weather researchers currently estimate a 6% to 12% chance that a Carrington class storm—a solar storm comparable in size to the largest on record—is likely to hit the earth in the next 10 years.”

Lloyd’s, an internationally acknowledged market of insurers, released research titled Solar Storm Risk to The North American Electric Grid. It states “Historical records of solar events suggest that a reasonable range for the average return period for an extreme geomagnetic storm is 100-250 years.” The last event occurred in 1859—163 years ago.

Civil War in the US

Barbara F. Walter, Rohr Professor of International Affairs at the School of Global Policy & Strategy at the University of California, San Diego (not to be confused with Barbara Jill Walters the retired American broadcast journalist) recently published How Civil Wars Start: and How to Stop Them. On page 159, she writes,

“Where is the United States today? We are a fractionalized anocracy that is quickly approaching the open insurgency stage, which means we are closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe.”

Since the book’s release, the United States has moved from an anocracy back to a democracy. The Center for Systemic Peace writes, “The USA dropped below the “democracy threshold” (+6) on the POLITY scale in 2020 and was considered an anocracy (+5) at the end of the year 2020; the USA score for 2021 returned to democracy (+8).

But we stand on a precipice. A federal trial has begun against the men who plotted to kidnap the Governor of Michigan. The first trial relating to the January 6th, Capitol riot has also begun. midterm elections approach and tensions are high. We could easily slide back down.

Global Climate Change

According to the North American fact sheet by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we face the following realities, in addition to many others:

Food: “Climate-induced redistribution and declines in North American food production are a risk to food and nutritional security (very high confidence).”

Water: “Intensified droughts and earlier runoff from diminished snowpack will increase water scarcity during the summer peak water demand period especially in regions with extensive irrigated agriculture, leading to economic losses and increased pressures on limited groundwater as a substitute for diminished surface water supplies (medium to high confidence).”

Health: “Climate change has negatively affected human health and wellbeing in North America (very high confidence). High temperatures have increased mortality and morbidity (very high confidence)” Temperatures in the PNW broke records in late June of 2021, and not just by a little bit. Prior to that week, the all-time highest temp on record for Salem, Oregon had been 108°. We hit 117° that week, matching the all-time heat record for Las Vegas, NV. Canada hit 121°!

Wildfires & Drought

According to National Geographic, the Western US is experiencing the worst megadrought in 1,200 years, and “there’s a very strong chance the drought will continue through 2030”. A March 7th, 2022 writeup by the Union of Concerned Scientists titled Causes and Consequences of Epic Western US Drought is worth the read.

The western US has seen wildfires occur more frequently and with more intensity in recent years. Check out Oregon’s drought conditions for March of 2020. As you saw in an image above, that fall brought easterly winds and intense fires that threatened the Willamette Valley.

Now check out drought conditions for March of 2021 and March of 2022. Worsening conditions are evident. Fires will almost certainly again rage this summer and fall. Will easterly winds blow through the Cascades again, bringing fires toward the Willamette Valley? It’s worth being prepared. Just in case.

World War III

If I’d written this page two months ago, the category of a World War wouldn’t have been included. Back then, the likelihood seemed so far-fetched. Yet on March 7th, 2022, acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Kristina Kvien, told NPR

“We’re trying everything we can to make sure it doesn’t lead to World War III, but ultimately … that depends on the actions of President Putin.”

That same week, First Lady, Jill Biden wrote, “We don’t know where it’s going to go. We just don’t know. And we’re all just holding our breath, aren’t we? That something, some answer will come so that we don’t get into this world war. It’s unbelievable, right? To think that that could happen in our lifetime, I just have to turn on the TV every morning and pray that Zelensky is still alive.”

April 26th brought a particularly grim warning from Russia, shown in the print screen below. (Click the image to link to the CNN article from which it comes.)

Should Putin choose to cause destruction in the US, cybercrimes and electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attacks remain constant threats. “This threat of both EMP [solar storms] and geomagnetic storms has been studied by the Congressional EMP Commission, and as Chairman Grahm noted, this is one of the few threats that could cause the military defeat of the United States” – John Kappenman, Principal investigator, NASA space weather study & US Congress EMP Commission. Check out the EIS Council’s Black Sky movie.

There is no shortage of possible emergencies out there. If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that these emergencies can be devastating in both intensity and frequency. Being prepared for whatever comes next will make the situations more manageable. Being prepared will make us more resilient.

If you’d like more reasons to consider preparing, I recommend reading Rational reasons why you should be prepared on ThePrepared.com.