Guest columnist

Madison Park Emergency Planning: What now? Three simple earthquake prep actions

The question, “When will this be over?” is not just coming from kids. Adults are also feeling the fatigue of trying to stay safe and responsible during this global pandemic. Who could have imagined we’d be in month seven of living in ways that feel so abnormal and antisocial! A combination of the need to be hyper-vigilant and the extended cancelation of many activities that bring us pleasure in the company of others has us weary, perhaps frustrated and ready to toss caution to the wind. If only we had an “end date,” perhaps we could stay pumped with this discipline. It’s overwhelming and utterly depressing to think about doing this for another year, right?

“We’re equipped to avoid and respond to acute danger, such as natural disasters, but we haven’t evolved a logical system to respond to prolonged, chronic stress, such as COVID-19,” Dr. Steven Sutherland said in an Aug. 6 article of the Duluth News Tribune.

While it’s true people living with generations of racism, poverty and violence have evolved some considerable resilience, Sutherland’s point got us thinking back to the small head of steam Madison Park neighbors were getting on behalf of earthquake preparedness in 2019. Pre-COVID, how many of us really properly equipped ourselves to respond to the epic disaster of a long-predicted major magnitude 9 earthquake hitting our region? Because it’s long overdue, do we assume it probably won’t happen, like a pandemic couldn’t get out of control in the United States? Well, we certainly have seen the fallacy of making that assumption!

Recognizing it’s hard for humans to prepare, let alone sustain our readiness, for a major disaster, what if we channeled our sagging pandemic discipline into a fun challenge for ourselves and each other? This fall, accept our challenge of completing one simple but essential earthquake prep action for the next three months.

Meet the Challenge

For each of the next three months, we’ll concentrate on one simple but powerful act of earthquake preparation you can do without getting overwhelmed. Let’s imagine an earthquake happens in the dead of night. After the shaking stops, you’ll likely find yourself without heat, water, light and phone service, and uncertain if your home is safe. Broken glass will be everywhere. In this and two successive MPT articles, we will provide simple guidance for how to: 1.) stay warm and protected from injury; 2.) have clean water to drink; and 3.) prevent serious illness from improper human waste management. We call this the three W’s: warmth, water and waste.

Why these three actions? In the best-case scenario, a federal response to the needs of single-family neighborhoods in the Seattle area is unlikely to arrive in less than 14 days. Why? It will take a minimum of eight days for naval supply ships to come from Southern California. Arriving in Elliott Bay, they will serve the thousands of people in downtown Seattle before fanning out to the neighborhoods. Roads and bridges will likely be compromised.

The metal hub box by the Madison Park tennis courts contains no emergency supplies, only paper, cardboard signs, pens, a few tarps and such to be used by our Ham Radio volunteers who will bring their gear and set up a communication center in the park. Again, the hub box contains no water, no food, no medical supplies or any warm clothes. You are on your own for these basic needs. Therefore, depending on the season, weather and available shelter, you will first need a way to stay warm. Your second need will be for water. Our bodies can survive several weeks without food but only a few days without water. Third, by managing human waste properly, you protect yourself from disease and bites caused by rats that are attracted to it.

September’s Simple Prep: Warmth

For each member of your household, we recommend you fill a bag with the essentials listed below and secure it to each bed. Imagine the quake happens at night when you’re asleep. Let’s also assume you survive the quake because you have wisely stayed in bed. After the shaking stops, you and each household member will be able to reach down and find that bag secured to their headboard or a leg of their bed. Then each will quickly put on all those items and be ready to help one another.

Here are the essentials for each bag: a light source (headlamp or flash light), sturdy shoes and warm socks, gloves to keep hands warm and protected from broken glass, a warm hat, a warm shirt, a water-resistant, warm jacket, a pair of pants and two masks. Regarding the masks, one should be a simple cloth mask to prevent COVID transmission and the other an N-95 quality mask to protect lungs from smoke in case fires are burning nearby. Consider these necessities to be what you’ll wear for the next few days and perhaps your only “bedding.”

Once you all assemble after the quake, you have a critical next action to take if your home has natural gas. Should a gas line in your home have broken with the shaking, any spark could ignite gas that may have accumulated in your home. So, if you smell gas, send everyone outside to safety while you shut off the gas supply to the house.

Congratulations! You have protected yourself and household from hypothermia, a potential gas explosion and injuring yourselves in the dark from sharp objects like shards of broken glass.

In the October issue of the Madison Park Times, look for our recommendation for ensuring you have clean water to drink after the quake.

Ready, Set, Go!

Will you accept this challenge? Who will join you? Share this article, and encourage any and all to take this simple action this September.

Email us at or with questions or to let us know how you and your friends and neighbors were able to meet the September Simple Earthquake Prep Challenge.