We need to talk

We need to talk. Let’s have the Cascadia Conversation

Locations throughout the U.S. face some degree of natural disaster
risk — North Carolina has hurricanes, Oklahoma has tornadoes, Missouri faces floods,
Colorado braces for annual wildfires. The people in these areas are familiar
with how to prepare for and respond to the risks they face, from the household
level to the government level because, at regular intervals, nature has paid
them a personal visit. Experience is the best teacher.
The Pacific Northwest stands at a unique and frightening
crossroads with a looming Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake.  Perhaps never before has a population so large
awaited an event so big, armed with such little personal disaster experience.
None of us – reaching as far back as our great, great grandparents
– have experienced a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake, an earthquake that
could release 1,000 times more energy than the San
Francisco earthquake
that knocked us off our feet in 1989.
316 years have passed since the Cascadia
Subduction Zone 
last unleashed a 9.0
magnitude earthquake. While seismic activity doesn’t follow an orderly
schedule, 10,000 years of earthquake evidence gathered by scientists at Oregon
State University suggests that we’re 10 months pregnant with our next big
quake. It was only twenty years ago that we realized we’ve spent the last
two centuries building a thriving civilization on shaky ground that will one
day give way under our feet.

You’ve probably experienced a power outage before, so take
yourself back to those three or so hours of inconvenience, when you scurried
around for candles, discovered the batteries in your flashlight had died, and
worried about the contents of your refrigerator rotting under warming
temperatures. And then there’s the feeling of relief when the lights come back
on just as unexpectedly as they went out. Now imagine that those three hours
without power stretched into three days, then three weeks, then
three months, and you’re still waiting. Now imagine your water stopped
running, your toilets stopped flushing, your stove stopped cooking, your phone
stopped sending and receiving calls (and texts), your house was shaken like the
contents of a snow globe, and your car was rendered unusable – for months.
This is what we expect to occur in the aftermath of a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake.
Although it seems unimaginable, it is
factual. Like a cruel game of musical chairs, there’s no telling
when the music will stop or where you will be sitting when the forces that
created the Cascade Mountains reawaken. 

When people learn about a new and frightening threat to their
safety and well-being, we

quite often do something fascinating: we do absolutely
nothing. It’s as if we believe that somehow by ignoring the issue, it will go
away.  My grandpa, who would have
surpassed his 100th year by now, told me that cigarettes were commonly referred
to as “coffin nails” when he was a young boy, yet into the 50s tobacco
companies continued to use doctors to
tout cigarettes brands as the “doctor’s choice” for nursing mothers. 

Since the
invention of the automobile, we’ve been fatally crashing them, yet well into
the 80s we let our kids wrestle un-belted in the backseat as we blazed down I-5.
The point of these examples?  We knew the
risk, yet did nothing to change our behavior until it became socially
unacceptable. Today, you’d face social pariah status for lighting up a
cigarette in your neighbor’s nursery or driving up to daycare with your toddler
propped un-belted on your lap, but it took time for us to
expect different behavior from one another.  It took time to hold one another accountable and
for these actions  to join the ranks of “socially
unacceptable” behavior. Today, despite knowing we face the threat of a historic
and life-altering earthquake, we don’t expect one another to prepare for it and
we aren’t calling one another out for not preparing. This has to change, and it
starts with you. Your actions speak louder than words.
The Prepare Out Loud movement is a shift in thinking. It’s a
change in the way we behave. It’s about creating a culture of preparedness. Tens
of thousands of people in the Pacific Northwest have already quietly started
gathering supplies like food and water and creating family emergency plans. Now
is the time for all of us to join the preparedness movement, not quietly, but
out loud. To Prepare Out Loud means taking simple steps to prepare yourself
and your family for a disaster and sharing how you’re preparing with others.
Sharing is key because
peer influence – the influence that you have
within your social network – is key to changing a person’s actual behavior. I
quit smoking ten years ago, not because I suddenly realized that it was bad for
me, but because I saw my friends begin to quit smoking. Similarly, most of us
know that a Cascadia earthquake is a tremendous risk, but we aren’t talking about what we are doing to
prepare for it and we aren’t able to see what our friends and neighbors
are doing to prepare.  We need to invite private preparedness actions into the public dialogue. Things
like securing your water heater, gathering food and water, stockpiling
medication and formulating a family emergency plan are important preparedness
actions that you may already be doing, but you will only influence your
community if people know you are
doing these things. 
Preparing for an earthquake is scary. It’s only at the moment that
you choose to prepare that you accept how vulnerable we all are. When my
wife and I began creating our family plan, tears were shed over the kitchen
table. But once we began implementing our plans and putting supplies in place,
we began to feel better. Chey, who recently attended a Prepare Out Loud
presentation, tells a similar story about the beginning of her preparedness
I’m completely terrified now, but have already started taking the
steps necessary to prepare. Strangely enough, when I went to the store to stock
up on water last night the shelves were bare. I was pretty sure that other
people knew something I didn’t know. And then I took a deep breath.
I also talked with my 4-year-old last night about the information
and informed her that I was going to be preparing emergency kits to prepare for
the earthquake. Her eyes got big, and I told her “Sweetheart, it might never
happen in your lifetime. We just don’t know. But the best way to stay safe…”
And she finished my sentence herself with “is to be prepared!” I
was floored
is your time to begin a visible and verbal preparedness journey that will
embolden your family, workplace, neighborhood and the wider community to stand
strong and rise to the challenge of a Cascadia earthquake. Don’t prepare in
silence.  Prepare Out Loud.

Join us for our next Prepare Out Loud Presentation:
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
9:00AM – 11:00AM
14150 SW Karl Braun Dr.
Beaverton, OR 97005


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