At exactly 2:39am last Thursday morning, I was jolted awake by a very big, very unfamiliar sound. I’d had a few wines at dinner, so perhaps that’s why it took me a few moments to fully register that someone was breaking in to our house.
Or at least that’s what I thought it was.
Two seconds later, I’d put two and two together. My bed was shaking. There were rumbling noises erupting from all over the house. I think the bulk of it all lasted four, maybe five seconds. Oh, I thought. It’s happened.
In considering our move to the US, my list of reservations included (in no particular order):
- Donald Trump
- Being so close to North Korea, its maniac leader, and its ability to hit the United States’ mainland (California) with a nuclear weapon
Now, to be honest with you, it was on that fateful Thursday morning that I found myself lying in bed and trying desperately to work out which of these dot-point disasters might just have occurred. But I was right. It was definitely an earthquake., though our lack of preparedness had almost pushed that possibility out of my mind.
We’ve been in Silicon Valley for just over six weeks now, and already a number of people have raised with us the likelihood of an earthquake. We’d added it to our (metaphorical, sometimes literal) to-do lists but had pretty much de-prioritised it in favour of the mountain of life admin we’d thought needed to take precedence.
I mean, how likely is an earthquake? Really?
Warnings came from our landlord. When we signed our lease, she included a handout (because, paper) on Earthquake Preparedness. She gave Cam strict instructions that we needed an emergency kit complete with tent and a minimum of three days’ worth of food and supplies. ‘The kit should be stored somewhere in your backyard’, she added ‘and not inside the house in case it falls down or is deemed structurally unstable’.
Sure, we thought. We didn’t really listen.
Warnings came from Cam’s employer. They presented him with (electronic) instructions on what exactly to include in one’s emergency kit. And they didn’t just recommend a kit for home. No. ‘You must have one for work, and one for your car as well’.
And then, warnings came from our childcare centre. Upon enrolling the girls, in addition to completing the mountain of forms, we’d need to provide an emergency kit for each of the girls in case an earthquake struck while the kids were there and Cam and I were absent. Things like their favourite non-perishable food, a family photo, a special message to be read aloud to them, and a favourite toy or book or something they’d associate with home and comfort. Staff told us to be prepared for roads to shut down, and perhaps for having to be separated for days on end.
Still, we didn’t do anything. That was until the wee hours of the morning of our first earthquake. Sure, it measured a lowly 4.4 on the Richter scale, but it certainly gave me a wake-up call (sorry… couldn’t help myself). By 5am post-earthquake (don’t laugh) we’d ordered our kits and had made plans on where to meet should a major earthquake strike.
The San Francisco Bay area is well-known as prime earthquake country. This particular quake was felt by an estimated 9.8 million people. The epicentre of the quake was in the area of the Hayward fault, one of the area’s most notorious faults known to be capable of generating extremely destructive, magnitude 7+ earthquakes. It courses right underneath Berkeley, Oakland, Hayward, and Fremont and produces particularly large shocks; about one every 160 years (on average), with an error margin of about 80 years. Given it’s been 150 years since the Hayward fault last ruptured, I guess we really should have seen this coming. Whoops?
But there’s no time to waste: another one’s about to strike. This time, it’s major. It could be tomorrow. It could be in 30 years’ time. Whenever it is, the experts agree: it’s long overdue and it’s gonna be a big one.
And while I admit that I feel the likelihood of North Korea firing on us could be a little more unlikely (hell, it would be suicide for them to do so), there’s no way I’m removing it from my reservations list. But exactly how should my family and I be preparing when this – the century’s largest earthquake – could happen at any moment?
There’s only one thing to do: cuddle my babies and share honest conversations with them.
Let’s hope our kits arrive before we need them. Hopefully we won’t need them at all.