Posted by: Green Knight | September 1, 2011

National Preparedness Month

September, that is, in the U.S. at least.  Think about all the things that have happened in the past year and a half.  BP blows the plug on its oil rig, and the aftereffects are still with us.  A year later, a quake, tsunami, and meltdown in Japan.  A 30,000-gallon oil spill to the Yellowstone River.  Major tornadoes in April and May, and a hurricane just the other week, with associated environmental damage and animals needing to be rescued.  How prepared are YOU?

I was slightly amused at the reaction to the recent 5.8 earthquake in the Washington, D.C. area, as I tend to be when we get a rare one in the St. Louis area that’s big enough to be felt.  Being a native San Franciscan who grew up with quakes, it takes at least a 6.0 for me to pay attention, because it could just be a city bus going by and rattling the old clapboard Victorians we have out there.  Living in eastern Missouri for several years now, the big thing is tornadoes, but we’re also sitting on the biggest fault system in the country, the New Madrid Seismic Zone (locals put the accent on the FIRST syllable of “Mad-rid,” rhymes with “bad kid.”)

The New Madrid isn’t an active zone like the San Andreas, where one tectonic plate is grinding against and being subducted under another; rather, it’s a failed ancient spreading center that cooled off, so every now and then some fault blocks settle and you get a temblor.  Look at the course of the Mississippi River: see how, despite a lot of little squiggles, it pretty much trends in a straight line from the southern tip of Illinois to the southwest corner of Mississippi where it pokes into Louisiana?  That’s the main part of one big crack in the earth’s crust, like the Rift Valley in northeastern Africa.

What environmental effects do you get during/after a quake?  Well, underground storage tanks pop out of the ground, aboveground tanks collapse, pipelines rupture, and so do gas and water mains, so you get fires and nothing to put them out with.  During the great quake and fire in 1906 San Francisco, firefighters dunked their hoses into giant storage vats of wine in the South of Market warehouse area to put out fires downtown.

There are plenty of guidelines and websites to check out for safety and preparedness information.  In “tornado alley,” if you have a basement, head to the northeast corner, since that end of the structure is most likely to still be propped up after the twister approaches from the southwest.  More people are killed in quakes by running outside than any other way, because they get beaned on the head by bricks and chunks of masonry — stay inside and get under something sturdy, or stand in a doorway for structural stability.  Don’t store stockpiled drinking water in glass bottles!!  That sort of thing.  You have to idiot-proof your operation, and do practice drills so that it isn’t a Three Stooges situation in the event of a real emergency.  Make checklists.  Always have spare batteries.  Store things where you can get to them; I inspected a body shop once that had their spill kit on a top shelf in the back, so the cleanup crew would have to wade through a lake of dirty solvent just to GET to the suits, boots, gloves, respirators, and absorbents.  Bad planning.

Don’t forget your furry friends!  Here’s a quick quiz from the ASPCA:

Here’s an article and inventory for pet preparedness from

Also, don’t forget that FEMA and the Red Cross have good courses on helping critters:

FEMA Animals in Disasters online courses

Awareness & preparedness:

Community planning:

Livestock in Disasters course:

Red Cross dog & cat first aid/CPR classes & manuals:

FEMA National Preparedness Month websites

Disaster kit:

Facebook page:

FEMA Nat’l Preparedness Month Coalition website:

Resource page (probably have to join first on previous page to see it, but try anyway):

Writing an Emergency Plan:

Sources of emergency information (state, local):

As we said in the Boy Scouts, “Be Prepared!”  Or as I say about equipment and training, “better to have it and not need it than the other way around.”


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