Thursday, October 8, 2015

Drop, Cover, Hold On! Next Thursday

One thing that does NOT bother me about living in Alaska are earthquakes. They bothered me a lot when I lived in San Francisco, and the whole Cascadia thing in Oregon has got me more freaked, but they don’t bother me here.

In San Francisco, I knew friends who checked the time when they got in BART crossing the Bay so they’d know when they reached the halfway point and then which direction to walk in the event of an earthquake. When Sophie moved to San Francisco, I gave her earthquake supply lists, directions about turning off the gas, all that. In San Francisco, earthquake awareness is ever-present, and people are prepared.

I go to all sorts of talks on earthquakes, and I’ve seen the maps that show Alaska completely blackened by the dots that show earthquakes; but here in Alaska, most of my days don’t pose earthquake danger. Maybe a tree will fall on me on the Coastal Trail or the earth open up near Earthquake Park, but I don’t hang out in tall buildings. I guess the Tudor overpass could fall down. Hmmm…

This, of course, is part of the problem: being blas̩ about earthquakes. I mean, most people were more prepared for Y2K. So last year, I got into my newest earthquake discovery: the Great Alaska ShakeOut, one of the largest earthquake drills ever. October 15 at 10:15 a.m., thousands of people all over the country Рall over the world Рwill be Dropping, Covering, and Holding On. Me, too.
Last year, I got a whole building to do it. I especially loved getting the board members in a Board of Directors meeting to go under tables. It’s incredibly funny to be adults looking at the world from under a table. (It’s incredibly funny to be adults under a table.) At, they even provide audio messages with sound effects to announce the beginning of the earthquake. The big thing is looking around from under the table and noticing what things might fall on you and need bracing or relocating. is full of good information. I just learned that we’re NOT supposed to stand in doorways, that the doorway bit was a myth stemming from photographs of California adobe homes with only a door frame standing. So now I have to find a new safe place.

This year, I’m getting the students, preschoolers, and fellow volunteers at the Alaska Literacy Program to go down under tables. Many of the students there come from other earthquake-prone countries where everyone runs out of their houses. You all know you’re not supposed to do that, right?

Look around you: who can you get under a table? Someone in a suit and tie? Someone in a mini-skirt? Someone with tight pants? High heels? Too funny. Really, this is one of the big reasons I do the ShakeOut. My clothes, despite all my best intentions, are still earthquake-ready. Not only can I get under a table; I can probably crawl out of a crevasse.

Join me and 76,000 other Alaskans. Sign up today.

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