Wildfires, Earthquakes, Power Outages

Just Another Day in CA

Earthquakes, fires and power outages

Forget about a Zombie apocalypse. I live in California where we worry weekly about wildfires, earthquakes, and “scheduled” power outages.

Back East, we worried about terrorist attacks, but since moving to the San Francisco Bay, I’ve learned the true meaning of terror. Here dinner conversations are just as likely to focus on “What’s in your ‘to-go’ bag and earthquake kit?” as on politics, the environment, and favorite TV show.

I used to think survivalists were crazy people. Now I’m not so sure.

Wildfires, Earthquakes, Power Outages. Oh, My

One dear friend has an earthquake shed. She’s no End-of-Times prepper. Still, every five years she goes out to the shed and reviews its contents. I cracked a joke about “updating her wardrobe,” cleverly suggesting that plaid flannel was forever stylish – indeed the little black dress of the survival set. But my friend didn’t laugh. She said refreshing items in the shed meant updating prescription meds and making sure clothes and footwear fit.

Every time there’s a wildfire alert in our neighborhood, my shed friend packs anew a suitcase full of sentimental items – photos, letters, and hand-stitched linens, ready to haul out to the car at a moment’s notice. Then, she goes to work, leaving the suitcase by the front door, thinking her somewhat frail mother-in-law will have the time and the strength to grab the suitcase if there’s an evacuation notice. My friend is the definition of an optimist.

A second friend has TWO “to-go” kits packed and ready, one by the front door and one by the back. She’s got a pillow in each. The pillows take up a lot of space, but my friend says she’s seen those Red Cross emergency shelter cots and she wants to be comfortable when she hunkers down for the night … or week!

Still another friend, a former New Yorker, seasoned and sober, who came of age during 9/11, sleeps with a gas mask under her bed. She’s not so worried about sarin or mustard gas attacks in California but admits old paranoid habits are hard to break.

Mock the Crocs

Meanwhile, Handsome Hubby, a Reno, NV boy, wears cowboy boots by day, but for his earthquake preparedness, he keeps a pair of black Crocs bedside. He never wears them in non-emergencies, but somehow, sees these ugly holey plastic sandals as his tremblor salvation. I’m dubious, however. Scrambling over broken glass and assorted rubble in Crocs just doesn’t seem like a savvy survival strategy.

But who am I to mock the Crocs? I don’t have bedside shoes or a shed or a to-go kit.

When I was single, my idea of an emergency plan was to keep a dime in my pocketbook to call home if a date went bad. If I ever gave a thought to an evacuation plan, which is unlikely, it probably didn’t entail much more than grabbing my eyeglasses, contact lenses, mascara, a clean pair of underwear, and a good book to read.

As a mom of little children, I did give disaster preparedness more serious consideration, thinking about diapers, asthma medication, and bazillion changes of baby clothes.

What Me Worry?

But now, as a middle-aged muddler, I dunno. I figure I’ve weathered so many storms, meteorological and emotional, I just cannot summon the strength to focus on the next crisis.

I’ve tried, really I have, but the best I’ve come up with so far is this. See what you think …

First, I’ll grab the large, framed family photos – priceless and irreplaceable. Then, the 20 or 30 family photo albums – also, priceless and irreplaceable. Next, the jewelry. Of course, the jewelry.

I’ll also pack practical items – a few pairs of socks and underwear, and my mother’s sterling silver flatware.

Yes, the silverware. Here’s why: While others might argue in favor of medication, water, and food, I believe in a true crisis, society will rapidly decline into a barbaric barter system. With the silver, I can retain a personal sense of civilization AND also, when needed trade my pieces of silver for life’s necessities be they beans, H2O, dog food, or medicine.

Handsome Hubby to the Rescue

Yet, truth be told, amid the latest round of fires and power outages, Handsome Hubby has upped his disaster preparedness game. He just ordered two fancy-schmancy designer earthquake bags from some fancy-schmancy outdoorsy retailer. Unfortunately, the bags are back-ordered, so they won’t arrive for weeks. Fingers crossed we won’t need them before then.

And so far, here in Berkeley, we’ve been pretty lucky. All we’ve experienced are two power outages and some “minor” earthquakes. The power outages were inconvenient and annoying. The earthquakes were sobering and scary, but again, thankfully minor.

Yet, that said, during those recent power outages, Zombie Apocalyptic-like signs of bad behavior did pop up. Stores ran of batteries, flashlights, candles, and ice. People start jostling one another to get near electric outlets in coffee shops that had power. And, I heard one theatrical fellow hysterically cry out, “My kingdom for speedy WiFi”

Restaurants with power were packed. People making reservations requested tables – not near windows – but, you guessed it, near power outlets, so they can charge phones, computers, and, as I witnessed – hand-to-heart – a sex toy.

Oh, Lord, for the past two weeks, I’ve been obsessing about handbags. Now, with all the problems in California, I’m obsessing about to-go bags! It’s enough to make me want to put a bag or blanket over my head and hide!


A Serious Endnote

While power has mostly been restored throughout California and many people are returning to their homes, it is important to note that fires continue and exhausted firefighters are soldiering on. The damage was significant. Houses and property was destroyed. Lives and livelihoods upended.

This post was offered as a break from the hardships people are facing, but at the same time I urge everybody to be prepared. AND if you are in a position to do so, please make a donation to the American Red Cross or the disaster relief agency of your choice. People are in need. Thanks and stay safe.

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