Dec 2, 2017


I proposed using Slack at the office and encouraged the staff and administration to support it, and most everyone now has it, although usage varies. The way Slack works, you can subscribe to different channels, which are basically topics or areas of concern, and everyone with a common email extension can write, post, share whatever on those channels. Not long after I set up a few logical ones, I discovered someone set up a "survival" channel. I joined it, because, hey, survival is generally a good thing.

Later in the day, Rachel, one of the other architects in office, bumped into me in the kitchen. "So," she said, nearly conspiritorially, "you're a Survialist?"

You may have heard about Portland's Big One. What seems clear from the data is that a broad swath of coastal Pacific NW from far northern California to the top of Washington state, is overdue for a massive earthquake. Oregon? Isn't California the one known for it's earthquakes? Precisely- tremors and small earthquakes occurring frequently to relieve the geologic tension as the seafloor of the pacific slides to the NW under the continental shelf. That same issue also affects the pacific northwest, although there have been a notable and alarming lack of earthquakes since records were kept in the area. Actually, the consensus is that about 320 years ago, there was one. A big one. The resulting shift of the coastal plate caused a tsunami in Japan. There's a pretty terrifying article which won a Pulitzer on it a few years back.

The big one is given a 15% to 20% chance of occurring in the next 50 years. If it hits at the expected intensity, the resultant tsunami will likely wipe Seaside and many other coastal towns off the map. In Portland, nearly every bridge over the river will fail, dividing Portland in half and the central power distribution will be completely destroyed. It is likely that many of the buildings will collapse given both the strength of the earthquake and the fact that most buildings in the area were built before there was any awareness of the risk. The estimation was it would take years for Portland to rebuild and recover.

So what's the response been? City of Portland has embarked on a slow retrofit of many public buildings, and large real-estate companies have also been proactive at adding additional bracing and steel construction. The office where I work is thankfully one story and was retrofitted for seismic loads. City of Portland also pushes a readiness campaign with pamphlets about stockpiling water and some food and keeping an emergency kit, but shies away from calling it a "massive earthquake kit." I've heard from some people that major companies downtown have emergency boats stashed away, ready to pull out as a means of escape to get back across the river.

The "survivalists" on the office Slack channel trade resources including emergency kits, and talk about forming an office committee to buy survival gear like boats. Some of the links shared take on a decidedly "prepper" overtones with an emphasis on dealing with issues of widespread social unrest primarily with personal firearms. Welcome to the laid back pacific northwest!

I've checked the maps, and our house is in an area that would not be affected by earth liquefaction. As a single story stick frame home, there will be a lot of stuff thrown around inside, but the walls and roofs are likely to hold and remain intact. If the big one hits, my major strategy is get the hell out as soon as the shaking stops. As soon as I can get to a car, getting on the road out of town seems like the best idea rather than wait for help to arrive. (Projections are it may take months to get potable water and sewage back on line). I have also started storing water, and assembling a survival kit. One of my biggest concerns is radio- what happens if the earthquake hits while I'm at work on the far side of the river? The cell phone and internet network goes down, the bridges go down. Five miles may as well be five thousand. So I'm looking at radios. Home is quite a bit elevated from downtown, so it may be within the theoretical line of sight.

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