Natural disasters humble us - but can help us set new priorities

Anchorage has always been a close community, and this has become more evident with the recent earthquake and subsequent aftershocks. Neighbors have shown an even greater degree of empathy, patience and friendliness.

When a large, shared community event like a natural disaster occurs, people tend to look at each other, rather than through each other. Smiles seem more real — less masked. Strangers in the elevator seem more like neighbors.

The effects of the earthquake have varied among family, friends and neighbors we’ve spoken to. Some of their homes have had only minor cracking in walls and a few broken dishes; others have had numerous cracks and everything thrown out of cabinets. A few are dealing with more substantial structural issues. Thankfully, no one has been seriously hurt.

However, disasters do remind us to not become complacent and show us where we need to improve. Here are a few of the comments we’ve heard:

• Re-establishing procedures for family members to find each other.

• Updating the emergency supplies: provisions for water, food, fuel and medical needs.

• Securing TVs, bookshelves and appliances to the walls.


• Checking that two hot water tank earthquake seismic straps are still in place and secure.

• Adding childproof locks to cabinet doors to help prevent things from being thrown violently onto the floor.

Earthquakes and other natural disasters can be humbling. For ideas to prepare your household for the next one, good sources of information are the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websites.

[Still not sure how to help with earthquake recovery? Here’s a one-stop shop.]

As we approach the holidays, what better time to give thanks for the blessings of the safety of our family, friends and homes. Express your thanks by taking a moment to remember the many local charities carrying the extra burden of caring for our community and dealing with earthquake damage themselves. Contact your favorite charities to see what they need. Make it a family event to call, coordinate, pick up and deliver.

If you can’t contribute money, contribute a far more precious commodity — your time. Involving the entire family is the best way to pass on the spirit of giving back to the community. It is especially important to involve the kids, since the rumblings and violent shaking of the earthquake also scared them. This may help them positively process the event, plus their ideas could be the start of new family traditions of giving.

Take the next step by thinking of friends who lack close family support. The holidays are the perfect excuse to call and invite them over. During the rest of the year we get so focused on just getting through the workweek that weeks turn to months and we never get around to reaching out socially. Now is the time to make the call. A shared meal doesn’t have to be elaborate; in fact, sharing the preparation reinforces the bonds of friendship.

Being prepared is important individually, as well as for your family and community.

Unfortunately, for many people, the extra cash meant for holiday expenses will likely to go toward earthquake repairs and personal property replacement. If you have experienced damage, you may qualify for State Individual Assistance at the website, or call 1-855-445-7131 to find out more. Don’t delay, because the deadline to file is Jan. 29.

Barbara Ramsey

Barbara Ramsey is a local associate broker specializing in residential real estate. She can be reached at