It's been more than a week since The New Yorker published a story called The Really Big One, describing how much of the Pacific Northwest will be destroyed by a massive earthquake and tsunami and scaring the crap out of Americans nationwide. Now, emergency kits are "flying off the shelves".
That's no huge surprise to anyone who read the New Yorker article, which was terrifyingly frank with its assessment of the geological time bomb ticking under the Northwest. "Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast," one FEMA official told author Kathryn Schulz, referring to the highway that runs up the entire coast, most of it inland about 80 or 90km. Whoa.
It was a viscerally scary story, and it sounds as though it affected locals in cities up and down the coast: The Seattle Times reports on American Preparedness, a company that sells emergency kits — whose CEO says the company sold an average month's worth of kits in a single day after the article went up online.
A search through Amazon's top sellers for emergency kits shows off a few options — like a chunk of emergency rations, 3600 calories in all, which are designed to last for 72 hours. Cost: $US8.04.
The highest earthquake-specific item on the top seller list is a way fancier "Deluxe Home Honey Bucket Survival Emergency Earthquake Kit", which includes everything from dust masks, water, and calorie bars, to first aid kits, water purification tablets, and a knife. Oh, and there are "toilet bags" that let you convert the bucket it all arrives in into a toilet. The cost? $US90.
Of course, you can also make your own kit for far less.
It sounds as though other earthquake-focused businesses are booming, too. One seismic retrofitting company reported similar booms over the past week, The Seattle Times' Erik Lacitis says:
Erik Jackson, co-owner of Sound Seismic, which retrofits homes for quakes, said his firm had a 3½-month wait. Since Monday, he says, "It's now six months. … We always get spikes after natural disasters. We've never gotten this kind of response."
That's actually good news. If there's one thing that Schulz's article drove home, it's that the region hasn't been able to sufficiently prepare for the quake because so few people realise the danger. Retrofitting homes and offices is a process that's very old and very common in parts of the world where earthquakes are common, and it's good to see the same ideas take hold in the Pacific Northwest.