The magnitude-6 South Napa earthquake that struck the Bay Area in the early hours of August 24 is winding down. The well-anticipated series of aftershocks is tailing off, just as the scientists told us. September is upon us, and it happens to be National Preparedness Month. For those of us concerned about the next earthquake, it’s time to sit down and . . . read a comic book.
People like me can write every day about dealing with earthquakes, and they do. That’s great if written material hits your sweet spot. But there are a thousand ways to tell a story, and one of the best is in drawings. And it’s particularly timely that a free 16-page comic book has just been issued to bring the earthquake scenario to vivid life. Titled “Without Warning,” it tells about a few hours in the life of Angie, a student at Cascadia High School, on the day a major earthquake strikes.
In a deft, understated way, it makes a lot of points about how we can respond to disastrous earthquakes. Angie isn’t a superhero, although she shares Superman’s blue-highlighted black hair. Retrieving her little sister from school and getting her home safely for her birthday is all she accomplishes. But she does her part. Along the way she practices first aid, shares information, pulls a guy out of the river and keeps a cool head. Her Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training and her ever-present backpack serve her well.
Not everyone listens. Angie’s schoolmate Heather panics and roars off in her car, where she will surely add to congestion on the broken roads and unnecessary demands on the overwhelmed hospitals. Maybe Angie didn’t say the right thing to her. Maybe there isn’t always a right thing to say or do. But what she does makes a difference, and what she does is achievable by almost anyone, maybe even you.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other agencies supported this project. I have to say that motivation is a problem for me, even though I think about earthquakes every day. And our local cities seem to go out of their way to avoid the topic. Whatever breaks through this resistance is OK with me.
FEMA is charged with reaching as many people as possible with life-saving information. It’s got the Ready.gov website with materials in 13 languages, it’s got staffed offices all over the country working with local emergency providers (we’re in Region 9), it’s on Facebook and on Twitter and lots of other social-media outlets. Earthquakes are only one of many threats it addresses, so you should make Ready.gov your friend.