How Would I Respond to an 8.9?

Could I Survive the Aftermath of a Disaster?

What would it be like to live through an 8.9 earthquake? I live in Southern California, an area famous for earthquake activity, and I have felt quite a few of them over the years. None of these have been particularly significant, however, and I have never directly experienced an earthquake that did any damage. I have felt somewhat unsettled on a few occasions, but I never reached a state anywhere near fear or panic. But every day, all of us Californians know in the back of our minds that we are sitting on a ticking time bomb. Even the earth beneath our feet, which seems more solid than anything else in this world, can let us down and become the enemy.

We have seen quite a few devastating earthquakes around the world over the past few years: China, Pakistan, Haiti, and Chile. In the most devastating quakes, some of the damage resulted from poor architecture or general economic underdevelopment. The quake in Japan, however, shows that a natural disaster can have a devastating impact on a highly advanced, developed nation that had contingency plans in place. Survivors in northern Japan have been reduced to an economic status equivalent to those of much poorer nations, a state I doubt that any of them could have imagined just a short time ago. Could Californians, citizens of a nation as economically advanced as any on earth, be reduced to the same state?  And if this happened, how would a typical middle-class American like me respond?

The truth is that I have no idea what I would do if I faced such dire circumstances. I have never come close to facing anything like real hardship. I have spent virtually my entire life safe in a bubble created by modern infrastructure. I have always had plenty of food that was not directly produced from my own labor. If I need water, I turn a faucet. For lights, I flip a switch, and for heat, I push a button. I essentially talk, read, and write for a living, purchasing with my pay physical commodities produced, transported, and distributed by others. If a natural disaster disrupted the infrastructure that makes my lifestyle possible for even a short period of time, I would be utterly lost. I can’t grow food, and even if I had agricultural skills, I do not have the land or seeds to utilize them. If my home’s supply of water runs out, we are basically screwed.

While I feel for the people of Japan, I cannot relate to their experience at all, just as I have no conception of what the lives are like for the hundreds of millions of people who face daily circumstances so much more difficult than my own. Many of the things that I view as necessities would be incredible luxuries to so many others. It is almost like we live in separate universes. As a general rule, it takes little to freak us Americans out. If a new disease appears that kills a relatively small number of people, the response of Americans creates the impression that we are facing a massive plague. Just yesterday, I heard that Americans had bought up large amounts of potassium iodide, a chemical that is supposed to protect the thyroid from radiation damage. The minute possibility of health problems caused by radiation emitted thousands of miles away was enough to send some into a panic. People accustomed to relative safety, like myself, respond to fear much more than those who face real dangers. It can take very little to pop that bubble.

I would like to think that a calamity would cause me to rise to the occasion. Maybe the survival instinct will kick in, and I will be able to withstand tragedy in a way that I can hardly imagine. Or then again, maybe the modern comforts of life have made me soft, and those natural instincts are suppressed beyond repair. Like all people, I am largely a product of my environment, a fact that I generally do not like to acknowledge. Much of what I think, feel, and need has been ingrained into me. Someday, I may be forced to rise to the occasion, do without basic “necessities,” and overcome my comfortable upbringing. To be honest, however, I could live without finding out if I have what it takes. Hopefully, when the big calamity hits - earthquake, terrorist attack, new disease, or other unforeseen disaster - my loved ones and I will not be around to see it.

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Comments 12 comments

barbergirl28 profile image

barbergirl28 5 years ago from Hemet, Ca

It is funny that I came across this. Just the other day I was thinking a very similar thing... Do I have what it takes to survive a Natural Disaster like what happened in Japan?

I thought about it long and hard... and what I realized is that I think I would rather be the casuality. After all, my home and everything I treasure will most likely be gone. I will start all over from scratch. Am I strong enough? Who knows. I hope I never have to find out. I don't think I am... but when the time comes maybe my fear of dying will outweigh my fear of living without all the comforts of life as we know it.

Great hub! Great thought-provoker.

By the way, what part of California are you? I am in Southern California.


surale profile image

surale 5 years ago from pakistan

very nice work you done . i like it. keep it up.Your hub is very useful and informative .


christopheranton profile image

christopheranton 5 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

I just hope none of those disasters ever come, but that is probably a forlorn hope.

Thanks for a very well written article. You certainly seem to have your hand on the pulse of the nation.

Maybe you should enter politics, and I really mean that.


Freeway Flyer profile image

Freeway Flyer 5 years ago Author

Barbergirl,

I am from northern Orange County, not too far from Disneyland.


barbergirl28 profile image

barbergirl28 5 years ago from Hemet, Ca

I am about a 45 minute drive South of Disneyland... so I guess if California gets an earthquake we will both be feeling it. :O


syzygyastro profile image

syzygyastro 5 years ago from Vancouver, Canada

If there is some forewarning, then it is better to be preemptive and get prepared for the great shake. There are some natural forewarning events that presage an earthquake. Some occur as long as a year in advance, but the typical sign occurs a fortnight before. These are earth-lights and animal signs. You have to know what to look for in order for this to be effective.


Freeway Flyer profile image

Freeway Flyer 5 years ago Author

Are the recent earthquakes in the Pacific - Chile, Japan, and New Zealand - a sign of more to come? California might be next in line.


barbergirl28 profile image

barbergirl28 5 years ago from Hemet, Ca

Odd that they mention animal signs. Just yesterday we were looking out the window and we saw a bunch of birds flying around in a very unusual manner. It is hard to explain but it just didn't look normal. It was almost as if they were mimicking a tornado. And then after 5 minutes they flew off.


funmontrealgirl profile image

funmontrealgirl 5 years ago from Montreal

Nice hub.


syzygyastro profile image

syzygyastro 5 years ago from Vancouver, Canada

Animal signs must be consistent and across the species. I've seen animal signs that are strange, such as geese flying east for the winter, which I attributed to a geomagnetic anomaly due to the ongoing geomagnetic weakening, chaos and reversing. Individual animal species will behave in strange ways due to other influences. It is thought for instance that the electromagnetic influence of technology will cause strange behavior. We know that the sounds of ships will confuse whales. These are just some of the factors. In Malaysia, two weeks before the boxing day quake and tsunami, sea gypsies noticed a mass fish migration that covered the gamut of the species. On land, locals notice elephants running to the hills and birds refusing to roost. Then it hit and the only species taken by surprise were the people.


Andy 5 years ago

My wife wants me to construct a disaster survival kit. 4 trash cans full of water, canned food, clothes, tools, flashlights, etc. Basically, same stuff for a camping trip, but indefinitely stored 20 feet from our house.

My only concern is that I refuse to buy a gun, so in the event of a disaster, someone who didn't prepare might be desperate enough to just take what they want, and leave me with nothing for my little kids.


syzygyastro profile image

syzygyastro 5 years ago from Vancouver, Canada

This is very true and you will have to prepare for this contingency as well. Many people already have guns and some of them have no qualms whatever to rob others. Alternately, you might find a hiding spot that no one knows about, but that is so unlikely that it is hardly worth considering. Bear in mind that when disaster strikes, you will be on you own for at least a year, maybe longer, so prepare accordingly. Might I suggest learning to hunt, fish and identify wild edibles. Learn about guerrilla gardening as well and plant far more than you think everyone will need. Be preemptive and prepare before disaster strikes.

You might want to consider some form of water purification outfit that will allow you to purify water rather than store it. But it you live in a arid region, you may want to construct a cistern that will hold several months worth of water that is collects water from rain and run off.

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