There are a lot of other titles I considered for this post: “3 years in the Making”, “Journey to the Bottom of the Internet”, “The Article that Changed my Life”, but in the end, I didn’t feel they really represented what I wanted this post to cover. This blog has been 3 years in the making, it is the result of many, many trips to the bottom of the Internet, and the catalyst was an article that changed my life.
On July 21, 2015 my brother sent me an email with a link to an article. He had always mentioned that we should prepare for an earthquake, but It always seemed like an abstract and unlikely scenario. I found myself in between meetings, while on a day trip to Seattle for business, and began to read the article from the NEW YORKER titled “The Really Big One”.
Up until that point I lived in a world that didn’t really consider emergency preparedness to be a priority at all. I have never been an outdoorsy guy – I always considered camping to be a hotel with no remote control and room service that stops at 10. I was a member of the Cub Scouts for less than a year; I hated every second of Outdoor School. I had heard people talk about preparing for earthquakes over the years, but had not taken any of it to heart. It always felt like they were more paranoid than thoughtful.
At roughly lunchtime on that Tuesday everything changed. At the time I was (and still am) pretty experienced Marketing Analyst (I tell companies if their marketing campaigns actually got their customers to do what they wanted them to do). Marketing Analytics is, by its nature, very data intensive, and in a lot of way focuses on trendlines and pattern recognition (Is this metric moving the way that we want it to and what have we done in the past make customers do what we want them to?). I encourage you to read the article, if you haven’t already, because it may also change your life.
Most people who live on the West Coast are familiar with the San Andreas fault. As we grew up we were told that “The Big One” would be a massive earthquake that would do tons of damage to California and possibly Oregon. This quake would emanate from the San Andreas fault, but no one has any idea when it will happen. What caught my attention in this article was the math. The Cascadia Subduction zone runs the entire length of the West Coast and ruptures with remarkable regularity. The article laid out an incredible case for not only the science around the quake, but also the incredible damage that the quake will cause. The last Cascadia quake took place in 1700. As I read the article and my brain started working through the math and the history, I started to smile uncomfortably as a mix of fear, terror, and utter disbelief that this this was the first time I had heard of such a clear and present danger.
Why is the Cascadia quake such a big deal? I’ll try to sum it up as quickly as I can…
- We’re Overdue: The Cascadia Subduction Zone ruptures with incredible regularity, whereas the San Andreas fault is more unpredictable. The bonus here is that based on the previous patterns we are significantly overdue for a Cascadia quake.
- Infrastructure, What Infrastructure?: Since the last Cascadia quake was in 1700, no one was around to take pictures of the aftermath or tell their harrowing tale of life after the quake. This ultimately means that it wasn’t a consideration within the various communities as they started building the major West Coast cities. These cities were not built to withstand a prolonged 9.0+ earthquake. When the quake happens, the destruction will be massive, wide spread, and take months if not years to restore even basic services like water and electricity.
- The Entire West Coast you say…: In 2017 we saw one of the most destructive hurricane seasons ever. Houston and the Gulf Coast of Texas, Miami and most of Florida, and Puerto Rico were slammed by storms and required emergency help from the FEMA and the Federal Government to begin the recovery process. These three storms hit very close together and afterward FEMA said in various news outlets, that essentially that had tapped them out. Managing 3 disaster zones at once had depleted their resources and spread them thin. You’re probably thinking, “But Casey, those were 3 separate storms, surely FEMA can deal with one Earthquake.” Well, think about it like this, what if there was a catastrophic earthquake in San Francisco…and then there was one in Los Angeles…and then there was one in Portland…and then there was one in Seattle…and then there was one in every city from the Mexican border to the Canadian border and from the I-5 West?
Since that day 3 years ago, the way that I think about daily life has changed dramatically. The idea of preparedness has taken a prime seat, front and center. I have spent hours, and hours, and hours over the last 36 months researching, learning, and strategizing on how to make preparedness a part of our everyday life. I’m not a military specialist, I’m not a professional first responder, I’m not an Eagle Scout (or even a Boy Scout for that matter), but I am a Father/Husband/Son/Brother/Uncle, I am a strategic and analytic thinker who loves to research subjects that I am passionate about, and I am a problem solver. I have spent 3 years on this journey so far, and I hope that what I put into this blog will help others start and/or speed up their own journeys.