The Big One: Insider Tips

10 Ways to Survive an Earthquake in Portland

Carmen Merlo, former director of Portland’s Bureau of Emergency Management, argues that being ready for the Big One is as much about connection as stockpiles. But don’t forget to pack some chocolate.

By Carmen Merlo June 16, 2014 Published in the July 2014 issue of Portland Monthly

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Image: Shutterstock

1. Stay connected. One thing I always have on me is my cellphone. I keep all kinds of emergency information on it—rendezvous points, pre-downloaded maps, emergency response plans, etc. You can save important information in the notes or other apps on your smartphone.

2. There’s an app for that. There are so many great apps for emergency situations. A few of my favorite are: Knots 3D, Zello for walkie-talkie communications, and the Red Cross’ First Aid apps.

3. Learn how to urban forage. I took a great class taught by Rebecca Lerner. She has a book called the Dandelion Hunter: Foraging the Urban Wilderness for when food supplies are really scarce.

4. Meet your neighbors. In disasters around the world the people most likely to come to your immediate aid are not emergency responders—they’re your friends, families, and neighbors.

5. Keep calm and quick-witted. Getting through difficult situations isn’t always about having supplies—it’s about staying resourceful.

6. Be a homesteader. I was born in Romania and my parents didn’t have a refrigerator—they had a cave in the back of our house. My parents pickled, canned, and preserved food throughout the summer so we had food in the winter. I keep a basement stocked with dried, pickled and canned food.

7. Think about redundancies. Consider having a back up power supply, toilet options, food, water, and shelter.

8. Ride a bike. Invest in a bicycle (especially a cargo bike) and know how to fix a flat tire. It’ll get you around and help you transport loads.

9. Keep comfort items in your emergency kit. There’s some dark chocolate and a bottle of Blanton’s in mine.

10. Inspect your home for hazards. Anchor art or other items on your walls, install latches on cabinets and move furniture so that it doesn’t block exit routes. Don’t keep household chemicals somewhere they can spill and accidentally mix, move heavier items to lower shelves, make sure your hot water heater is properly strapped to studs, and check whether your home has been bolted to its foundation.

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