After Hurricane Sandy hammered the East Coast last month, we started wondering how well prepared Anchorage homeowners are for a disaster of similar scale. Yes, the weather bureau does a reasonably good job of predicting strong winds but no one can predict the timing or severity of an earthquake.
Alaska experiences 11 percent of the world's earthquakes -- and has recorded three of the top 10 greatest magnitude earthquakes -- so odds are we will have a big earthquake in the future.
The 50th anniversary of the Good Friday Earthquake is only a few years away. On the day of that quake in 1964, circumstances in Anchorage favored human survival, even though property damage was high. Temperatures were in the upper 20s. The population was a reasonable 85,000. Most business were closed or lightly staffed for the holiday, so Anchorage families were together. Next time, though, who knows what will happen or in what situation you may find yourself? Each of us must take responsibility for our own preparedness.
Hurricane Sandy also showed how a single disaster could affect homeowners in the same neighborhood differently. Whether from flood, wind damage, fire or all of the above, one home could be left standing while the neighbor's was gone. Even with plenty of warning, the superstorm showed that most homeowners were unprepared or underprepared.
We should also keep in mind that while the Sandy damage was severe, there was lots of help close to the East Coast. Alaska's situation is radically different. How long might we have to wait for help to arrive? Instead of depending on help to arrive from elsewhere, we need to be ready to fend for ourselves.
Here are some steps you can take to be prepared.
Step one: Take inventory.
Of course, you probably have summer camping equipment you can get to but do you really have enough of what is needed? Disaster preparedness experts recommend that a family have enough resources to be self-sufficient for at least three days. That seems like a minimum for Alaskans. What if help takes longer?
The thought of organizing enough emergency supplies to last three days can be overwhelming. This is often the point where most people mentally shut down and their planning good intentions falter. Fortunately, there are websites that can help you plan for an emergency, with suggestions for breaking your preparations into manageable steps.
One example is www.ak-prepared.com. Under "Get a Kit, Make a Plan, Be Informed," the Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Management 7 day Survival Kit Calendar offers step-by-step instructions for getting prepared. It shows simple lists of supplies and things to do each week for 24 weeks. We noticed many items that could be easily overlooked simply because they are part of everyday life and we don't really think about them. The plan even includes pets.
Step two: Put your plan in writing.
Communication is a big component of surviving a disaster. Putting your emergency plan in writing helps in three ways: 1) It identifies problem areas and things you may be forgetting; 2) it reduces the stress of what to do in an actual emergency; 3) it enables you to pass the information to family and neighbors.
Another resource is ready.gov. A good first step is the Family Emergency Plan found under the "Make a Plan" tab. The two-page form is a handy way to keep track of medical information, phone numbers and addresses that would be important in an emergency but may be difficult to remember under stress. Take time to prepare your family for disaster wherever it may strike, whether at home, at school or work. Your family may not be all together when an event occurs. Having a plan everyone knows about is important.
But preparations shouldn't be limited to family. After all, when a disaster hits, communities tend to depend on one another for supplies and resources.
Why not prepare by coordinating with your neighbors? Have a neighborhood potluck to share ideas and identify those with special skills (i.e. medical or handyman) or special needs (mobility or age). Assistance is a two-way street in an emergency. Not only do you need to know whom you can call on for assistance but also who might need your help.
When it comes to disaster preparation, procrastination is not your friend. Start taking a few steps now.
Barbara and Clair Ramsey are local associate brokers specializing in residential real estate. Their column appears every month in the Daily News. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.