Ready for a Major Quake? You Can Be

Dear Black Bag Confidential Reader,

This week’s rundown of must-read articles is going to be slightly different than usual…

Last week, I featured a piece on the likelihood of a major earthquake shaking up California’s Bay Area in the near future. Shortly after publishing, I received an email from one of my readers asking if he could share his experience about surviving the powerful 8.8 quake that occurred in Chile in 2010.

Let me tell you, folks, Alan’s story is incredible. It sounds like he and his family were well prepared — with emergency food and water, survival gear, medical supplies and cash on hand.

If you think all this prepper stuff won’t make a difference when a large-scale disaster hits, I urge you to think again. I shudder to think what might have happened to Alan and his family if they didn’t have any emergency plans or supplies.

Read Alan’s account below and take a moment to consider just how prepared you would be in his shoes.

Take it away, Alan…

Dear Jason,

For over 10 years I lived in Las Condes, one of the 26 city communities in the Santiago Metropolitan Area in Chile. My residence was on the eighth floor of a 13-floor condominium building.

At 0334 local time, the earthquake occurred and lasted for three minutes — the shaking in the dark was terrifying, along with the massive screaming, which immediately commenced. Given the violent shaking, one could not do anything except seek safety and wait for the first earthquake to stop.

As you know, the aftershocks can also be devastating — in our case, hundreds of aftershocks were occurring, commencing immediately after the initial quake stopped. Several of these aftershocks were in the 5.5–6.5 range.

Fortunately, we lived in a building that had been constructed by a wealthy Chilean family, who lived on the top floors of the building. After the 1960 9.5 earthquake in Chile, the Building Code was significantly enhanced. So much so that my residence only had slight damage — only three nominal cracks in the concrete where the ceiling met the corner of the walls. Nothing required, but a slight application of a bonding compound and new paint.

No electrical problems in our residence, and no foundation problems either. Why? The new Building Code required that building foundations not be placed on bedrock, but rather on “floating concrete platforms” above the bedrock. When the plates of the Earth move, the platforms just float with the waves since they were not connected to the Earth. Fantastic concept as explained to me by architects, engineers and builders.

There were two building problems that did occur… 1. The elevator track became bent and the elevator would not operate — and an eight-floor walk up and down could become physically exhausting almost immediately unless one was in great physical condition (which I was at that time). 2. A step in the stairwell collapsed when I placed my weight on it, requiring medical attention to my Achilles tendon. (This also impacted mobility.)

Our building had its own internal generators and I was able to access that system, so no electrical problems in our unit with any of our equipment, appliances, lamps, etc. Also, we were well stocked up with candles.

Outside our residence was chaos to say the least. But I lived within blocks of 15 embassies, so security was always above normal and became even greater after the earthquake.

However, the Santiago Metro Area is serviced by superhighways with bridges over rivers. The bridges were immediately impassible and further chaos ensued because this prevented the evacuation of people out of the Metro area. More importantly, it prevented additional emergency services and food and water to be transported into the Metro area.

From a living-conditions standpoint, here is what occurred:

With no electricity, there were no operative digital or electrical outlets — so no gas was pumped, no traffic lights worked, no supermarkets were open and no stores conducted business. If you did not have cash, no other form of payment was accepted, no checks, no credit cards, no debit cards, no gift cards, no cashier’s checks… Fortunately, we had a safe in our residence with sufficient cash to last months.

Also fortunately, while municipal water and sanitation services were restricted, operations increased over time rather quickly. The real major issue became water for drinking and cooking.

In our household, while we had limited bottled water on hand, I immediately went to the local convenience stores in our immediate surrounding area and purchased all the water I could and carried it back to our building and up eight flights of stairs.

I was able to do this for two reasons — I had CASH and I was in good physical condition. I was able to secure enough water until the municipal water service was fully operational.

The gas to our building and to my residence was never cut off (or limited) except for immediately after the earthquake for evaluation by the local gas company for any possible safely issues. This was one area that we were totally unprepared for — if we had not had gas, our existing food would have become rationed immediately.

We also had a significant amount of food on hand — fresh and in cans, packages, frozen, etc. — to survive in place for around 30 days (with the ability to cook). Maybe one week without the ability to cook.

After about one week, select supermarkets reopened with conditions — again, CASH only, only three customers at a time were permitted in the store and you could only purchase what you could carry.

Telephone service was temporarily interrupted, but was restored very quickly — i.e. in a few days.

As for wireless service, you could not use your cellphone to make a call, but you could send and receive text messages — which became the primary method of communication between families and friends. Calling service was restored after about 10 days in some areas and up to two weeks in others.

I did have a serious medical bag to handle most medical issues, including minor surgery.

All in all, a very enlightening experience, which has prepared me for subsequent survival circumstances. Although, as you know, it is a process.

I hope you find this information useful in the future education of your readers.

Thank you for the wealth of information you have been providing in your programs.



Like I said, it sounds like Alan did all the right things. He and his family had enough food to last for 30 days. And while they had some water, it was wise of Alan to get his hands on more as soon as he could.

Keeping cash on hand for these types of emergencies is also a smart move. If and when stores reopen, they will usually only accept cash. Be sure to have plenty of small bills so you don’t need to make change.

Alan also brings up the importance of mobility and being in good physical shape. When it comes to preparedness, make your health a priority.

I know I learned something from reading about Alan’s experience. Hopefully, you did too.

Stay safe,
Jason Hanson
Jason Hanson

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