“All that preparing for ‘the big one’ does not help me anymore.”

by on August 11, 2010 · 22 comments

in Culture, Environment, Health, Life Events, Ocean Beach, San Diego, The Widder Curry

earth quake logoby Judith Curry / August 11, 2010

I am writing this, not as a “Letter to the Editor”, but as an article with the purpose of aiding other Californians.

I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I remember the talk of earthquakes for as long as my memory was formed. I remember seeing pictures of the devastation of the San Francisco earthquake in 1906. I remember feeling the 1987 Whittier earthquake primarily because I lived only a few miles from the epicenter. I remember the Landers earthquake of 1992; the Northridge earthquake of 1994, etc.

As a teacher, I frequently was required to have “drop drills” for my students on a monthly basis. As a Principal I was the one that required my staff to have earthquake drills on a regular basis and reported back to the District Office the results of those drills.

earth quake under tableNow I am an old lady; recently widowed; and find that all of the preparing I did as a younger person for “the big one” does not help me anymore. I can no sooner get under a heavy desk than I can fly. And, if I could get under it, I would need help in getting up from it. In fact, I don’t even have a heavy desk anymore. I do have two emergency kits, and thus the reason for this article.

Where does one put their “emergency kit” after it is assembled? If I put it in the closet, where it currently is, and the roof caves in – as is likely if it is truly “the big one” I may not be able to reach it. I have one in my car also. What if the garage roof caves in and I am not able to get to the trunk of the car? Or what if something falls on my car?

I made a call to the Emergency Preparation Department and asked the question. The first person that I spoke to – I have his name if anyone is interested – could not answer the simple question of, ” . . where should the kit go in case of an emergency?” I was transferred to another gentleman – who did not give me a satisfactory answer either. He said, ” . . . probably in the room that you are in the most.” “Hmmmm”, I said, “what if that room is not accessible?” He hemmed and hawed and answered it the same way – ” . . . in the room that you are in the most.”

earth quake kit2Come on, people. That is as good as no answer, or as good as not having an emergency kit at all. This is what I am going to do: I will purchase a large trash container with a substantial lid. I will put the items that should go into the emergency kit – water, canned food, medicines, blankets, etc. Then I will use duct tape to seal the lid and will place it in my backyard, away from the house that might fall on it; away from the trees that might fall on it; away from glass that might fall on it. Then I will pray that the ground does not open up and swallow it. I would sure be curious to know where others are going to put their emergency kits in case of “the big one.”

Any other suggestions out there?

Judith Curry lives in Ocean Beach.  She also is  a retired Teacher; Principal; Assistant Professor; Deputy Director of Penobscot Job Corps; Director of Education and Training, Treasure Island Job Corps; Small Business Owner; Mother, Grandmother, Great-Grandmother, etc.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

ilovetheoutors August 11, 2010 at 11:33 am

I know that they tell you not to get under a heavy object or doorway no more . You should get next to the heavy big object and lay on the floor. Everything will collapse around you and on top of the heavy big items creating a triangle next to like a couch or piano . That is where to lay.


Random OB'r August 12, 2010 at 9:15 am

Aaah, the old triangle theory. Google it, it’s been pretty widely debunked (Snopes even has an article on it). California has pretty strict building codes in place, one of the biggest hazards in a seismic event here in the US is falling debris hazards, catastrophic collapse is rather rare.


judi curry August 12, 2010 at 5:35 pm

That’s what I have heard too. All the thing we “used to do” we are being told not to do now. So…what do we do?


judi curry August 12, 2010 at 5:34 pm

I think I’d be afraid that the heavy object would fall over and land on me. It’s worth a try – if I live to tell about it.


Diane5150 August 11, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Judith, my kit stays right by my one door going out. I live on the third floor of a building. However, I have imagined the big one many times, I don’t always make it out alive.

Good luck


judi curry August 12, 2010 at 5:36 pm

That’s probably a good solution. As long as you can use that exit, having the kit nearby would be the best answer. Thanks for the suggestion.


irene August 12, 2010 at 3:24 pm

Lets hope it never happens.


judi curry August 12, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Amen, Sister!


judi curry August 12, 2010 at 9:54 pm

I sent the article to my e-mail friends. I received back this answer from Harold.
Thought you might be interested in reading it:
Your idea to put the equiptment in a container in the back yard is real good but don’t do like I would do with a micky mouse container sealed with duck tape. On line you should be able to find 55gal. heavy duty food grade or used clean plastic barrels with lids that clamp on.

You might want a water filter for swimming pool water (to drink). My son thinks that a filter which is designed to treat ocean water would work but that’s only a guess. Have you thought about what you would do for a potty?? How about a comfortable bed and shelter from sun or rain (I’ve of forgotten what either of those things are). The more I think about it the more that comes to mind but I only have so much mind and I’ve used all that I have left.



john August 19, 2010 at 8:05 pm

Problems with the back yard: couple seasons of foggy ocean air on nearly any street on the west side of the point rusts the heck out of anything, so it REALLY needs to be sealed, and are you sure it’s safe from scavengers, the two, four (or more) legged kind?
Realistically most older kitchens have bottom cabinets that may be sturdier than they look, key is to poke inside and see if it has any kind of real wood beams within, usually on all 4 corners of each compartment you might see 1×2″‘s vertical in the construction, in theory I would imagine whatever is within will be intact in most 1 story homes. Newer homes, maybe not.
I think a good 4×4, even 2×4’s placed vertically even on bottom floor of the Northridge apartments would easily prop up anything above it. Every time I go to Home Depot I check the wood remnant bin, it’s a habit. Bet you could make a bin into a table, a cabinet, a shelf, damn near anything you need out of 4 short 4×4’s, (really 2×4’s are more than sufficient for most homes) and place it somewhere near where you spend the most time in the residence. Probably do it for $12-15 in materials, $20 if you put doors on it. Maybe 24″-30″ high. Wood beams/studs have really amazing strength in the vertical compression load bearing aspect. I’ve built many speaker boxes out of plywood with NO beams that I used to boast you could park a car on if you lowered it onto it.
Some folks might shy away if they never banged something together, but if you don’t have kitchen cabinets that are sturdy and this puts you at ease about emergency prep, and that would work for you, and aren’t fussy about looks other than that it’s painted wood-give me some measurements and a week or two and I’ll put something together and cover the materials. I have a few sets of hinges doing nothing in a drawer somewhere. (I recently sold my table saw due to our lovely economy but can do this without it or borrow one from my buddy if needed. The wood is very cheap, ala remnant bin)
I remember when they were sprucing up the old guy’s house and doing all the wiring wishing I’d been up there to help, consider this an offer that’s feel-good for me.
I’ll check for replies.


Patty Jones August 19, 2010 at 8:37 pm

Hey john, what a generous offer and a great thing to do! Frank sent a message to Judi letting her know about your comment. Paying it forward, very cool. Most respectfully, Patty and Frank


judi curry August 19, 2010 at 9:07 pm

Hi John, Thanks for all the suggestions you have made. I don’t know where to begin with my questions back to you.

I have an old Palmer House. The basic foundation is good, but before we bought it in 1968 there was considerable remodeling done by a foreman of a general construction company. He brought anything – and everything – that was demolished on remodels and put them somewhere in the house, the yard, the garage. I imagine that the original kitchen has the structure you are talking about, but I doubt it with the remodel. The first time I used the garbage disposal I spent 3 days in the hospital with 3rd degree burns. Nothing was capped. I have a small porch that now houses the gas BBQ. What would be the feasibility of creating a cabinet on the porch. If the roof fell in it would be easy to retrieve the emergency kit because the overhang is slight over the porch. If that were the case, the measurements would only need to be large enough to house the kit. Right? Again, thanks for your great offer.


john August 22, 2010 at 6:28 pm

shouldn’t be any problem. get some measurements together, contact Frank here and he can forward them to me or even give you my email address, that is fine, and from them I will draw out a rough sketch of what I think we’re doing so we’re on the same page here and take a photo of the sketch (no scanner but I have several competant digital cameras) and fwd it to you to see if it looks good.
As luck would have it I am doing some paint work for my landlord at my duplex soon and if I do it the same day I have my spray gun in use for that it would be a breeze to shoot the cabinet as well. Look better too, shooting paint with an auto spray gun looks sooo much better than brushes or rollers.


john August 22, 2010 at 7:14 pm

Note when she said “Palmer House” while I am not that up on architecture I knew there would be significance to use the proper name like that and ideed there is.
I believe she means Palmer & Krisel, along with Eichler they are probably the most iconic of Southern California architects of the Mid Century or Modern style, whose work was built into living space by the firm of Leonard Drogin in the late 50’s through early 60’s in at least 5 housing tracts here in various locations. These are really cool homes, with open space, simple clean lines and lots of airy room that reflected America’s lifestyle as it rapidly expanded in suburbia.
Here’s a link to a beautiful pictorial:
Obviously their works encompassed a scope which included virtual showplaces well preserved to very lived in modest tract homes in San Diego that we all drive by daily without a second glance so I don’t pretend to guess which end of the scale Judi’s lies on, but a San Diego Palmer home does appear to be significant. I believe Wm. Krisel is still alive today, he’d be about 86 or so.
Judi probably knows this but they also designed a number of unique motels of the era throughout Southern California and other nearby states:


judi curry August 22, 2010 at 9:37 pm

Hey John,
Thanks for all the information re: Palmer homes. I knew there were a lot of them in the Pt. Loma area, but didn’t realize just how extensive the buildings were. However, I do not think that the site is the same “Palmer” as the builder of these homes. They were traditionally 700-800 sq.feet, 2 or 3 bedrooms with 1 bath. Nothing fancy but just practical. My home, built new in 1950, sold for $7500 on a corner lot. A Palmer down the street from me, that is now a “tear down” is on the market for $500-550,000 and originally was a one bedroom, one bath. I wouldn’t mind having one of the homes shown on the website.

Thank you for your “cabinet” offer. I will get some ideas together; measure my emergency kits; and get back to either you or Frank. You are certainly “one of a kind.”


john August 27, 2010 at 3:15 am

Frank you have my permission to give her my email address directly upon her request. Thanks.


judi curry August 27, 2010 at 9:59 am

Thanks, John. As soon as I know what I need I’ll contact Frank.


john August 19, 2010 at 8:20 pm

” I can no sooner get under a heavy desk than I can fly.”

I remember entering the Santa Clara County public schools in ’67 as a kindergartener, doing those diving drills about weekly? Seems to me the point was so that the moment you realized it was a real one, instinct, not intellect, from doing it so often put you there fast enough to save your life. I thought of just that as I sat at my large desk the last shaker we had. Thinking had it been the big one, I just sat there.
Parents, look at your kid’s rooms and see if they have a spot to dive to. Drill them on it, pop in and have fun scaring the bejeezus out of them getting them to dive on instinct. Could save their lives, my grandma lived in the city in ’06, and the impression it made on her as a little girl, was one she was still fresh on in the early ’80s. We’ve never lived to see an 8+. There have been a few (and worse) in our lifetimes worldwide.
(I am on the UC Stanford/Riverside QCN, or Quakecatcher network. Check it out:
http://qcn.stanford.edu/ For $5 I got a sensor and cool software that I can access instant quake data worldwide, on an interactive globe)


Wireless Mike August 19, 2010 at 9:17 pm

For anyone interested, the California Geological Survey released its 2010 Fault Activity Map at this link: http://www.quake.ca.gov/gmaps/FAM/faultactivitymap.html

The USGS has a map of recent earthquakes at this link: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqscanv/
This website allows you to click on an earthquake location and see the details, and show the exact epicenter on Google Earth.

Slightly off topic, I know, but kind of cool.


judi curry August 20, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Very interesting site. Thanks for sending it.


kenloc August 19, 2010 at 9:48 pm

We used to do the same diving drills on the east coast,but it was in case of nuclear attack.Gotta love the cold war era. My wife says they didn’t do those here in school.Perhaps it was for that as well and they just told you it as for earthquakes.Not that dropping under a desk would help during a nuclear attack.


judi curry August 20, 2010 at 7:55 am

When there was a threat of nuclear attack, my schools changed the “earthquake drop drill” to the “nuclear attack drill.” I too, wondered what good that would do since the rooms had banks of windows from the front to the back. Guess we didn’t know about duct tape then!


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