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102017-adh-nws-Shakeout01-my (copy)

Chloé Johnston, a clerical aide in admissions at LBCC, hides under a desk while Felicia Soderstrom-Calderon, back left, Amanda Stanley and Danny Aynes brace themselves in their office doorways Thursday during the Great Oregon ShakeOut earthquake drill in 2017. The 2019 ShakeOut takes place Thursday.

Are you planning to participate in today's Great Oregon ShakeOut, the annual drill that helps remind us how to cope when a major earthquake hits?

If you're reading this before 10:17 a.m., it's not too late: You still can sign up for the event on the website https://www.shakeout.org/oregon/. It might be fun if you were the only one in your office who, precisely at 10:17 a.m., dropped to the floor, covered your head with one arm and held on to whatever shelter you can find. Practice makes perfect for the moment when a real earthquake hits, and that's the lecture you can deliver to your astonished co-workers when you emerge 60 seconds later. 

If, for whatever reason, you cannot participate in the ShakeOut on Thursday (it's set for 10:17 a.m. on Oct. 17, in case that connection wasn't immediately obvious), organizers say it's fine to set aside another minute or two at another date to practice the drill.

One of the other benefits of an event like the ShakeOut is that it offers a gentle (and painless) reminder of the need to prepare for an earthquake or whatever other natural disaster could head our way. 

It can be easy to get overwhelmed by all the preparations that are required to be truly ready to deal with the aftermath of such a disaster. The good news is that you don't have to do it all at once; although we know that the Pacific Northwest is overdue for a major earthquake triggered by the Cascadia subduction zone lurking just off the West Coast, chances are really good that it won't happen today or tomorrow. So we have the luxury of tackling this one step at a time. You don't have to buy two weeks' worth of supplies today — but it wouldn't be a bad idea to make a list and check off a few items every time you visit the grocery store.

In fact, it's a good idea to tackle all of your preparations one step at a time. A website run by the Earthquake Country Alliance offers four relatively simple steps to prepare for a temblor. You can take care of step one, securing your space by identifying hazards and securing moveable items, with a minimum of fuss. This step includes common-sense advice such as moving heavy objects like bookcases away from beds, sofas and other areas where people sleep; it's a lot harder to stop and drop if a bookcase falls on you right when the earth starts shaking. (The alliance's final step, reconnect and restore after a quake, does offer this chilling, but true, reminder: Your "level of preparedness will determine your quality of life in the weeks and months that follow." 

But, again, you don't have to rush out to the nearest outdoor-equipment store today, drop thousands of dollars on state-of-the-art survival equipment and then head out west, far beyond the Cascades, to start a new life off the grid. 

In fact, you probably already have a disaster plan in the works somewhere that you started after reading that Kathryn Schulz article in The New Yorker about "the big one." Chances actually are pretty good that you've already checked some items off the list. 

But chances also are good that you've let the list gather some dust since then. One of the real values of an event like the ShakeOut is that it's an excellent reminder to pull out the list and knock off a few more items. Think of the ShakeOut as the earthquake equivalent of the battery checks you make in your smoke alarms whenever we set our clocks forward or backward between daylight saving time and standard time. (When we finally do away with this accursed time shift, we'll need to find another way to remember this important ritual.)

In the meantime, when you emerge on Thursday at 10:18 a.m. from underneath your desk or wherever you sought shelter, make a note to find your preparedness plan. That's a list that's worth checking twice. (mm)

 

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