Swiss Family Robinson was a favorite book of mine as a child and I'm still attracted to the idea of castaways successfully adapting after disaster strikes. That concept has become stigmatized under the name "survivalism. "

Google the word, and the first result is "Survivalism. Survivalists tend to be the strongest mix of Politics, Self-Reliance, and Radicalism. .. . dedicated to preparing for a coming collapse of society, assuming the worst and preparing for it. They're not waiting for the calvary [sic]; they're looking to eat the horses if they come this way."

Read further at ( and you'll come across dozens of articles ranging from genuinely useful to distastefully paranoid, containing such kernels of advice as:

• "Following a nuclear war or total socio-economic collapse, surviving city populaces will panic ... Regardless of your town's officials' attitudes toward such probabilities, now, roadblocks will be set up after the first influx of refugees hits. ... The roadblocks at every entrance around the town will be to screen the refugees to determine which should be absorbed into the population. Those with practical educations and those willing to do physical labor should be welcomed."

• "Develop an emergency communication plan. In case family members are separated from one another during an earthquake (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), develop a plan for reuniting after the disaster. Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the 'family contact.' After a disaster, it's often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person."

• "There are myriad ways the water supply can be disrupted. The most common way is due to lack of electricity. With no electricity, there will be no water from water purification plants or your well - unless it is a non-electric well. The second most common way is a water main rupture.

"In storing water for emergency uses, most authorities recommend a minimum of two gallons per person per day. This should include one half gallon for drinking and the balance for other uses.

"Trapped water in house plumbing lines offers several gallons of clean water. As soon as the water pressure goes off, be careful to shut off your house lines from the street. This action will insure you do not draw in contaminated water or allow your trapped water to flow back into the connecting municipal system. Next, turn off the heat sources to your water heater. To gain access to trapped water in the house line, crack the faucet at the lowest level and drain the lines."

Other topics include "Making Pine Soup," "Who Controls the Media," (the Rockefeller family, in case you're curious) and "Urine as a Survival Resource."

It's easy to make light of some of the more outlandish people and ideas associated with survivalism, but the Asian tsunami demonstrates the worst can and does sometimes happen. When our own subduction zone breaks again as it did in 1700, much of the Pacific Northwest coastline will be cut off from help. And as in Asia, many who survive the earthquake and waves will face a miserable struggle for basic existence for days and perhaps weeks. It behooves each of us to spend some time planning for our family's survival.

Although it may look funny to the neighbors, one of these days soon I intend to take a stopwatch and see just how far away from the seashore I can get in 20 minutes, the usual estimate of how long we'll have between a major nearby quake and the first tsunami. Seaside is to be commended for its leadership on this issue, by the way, with a community-wide evacuation exercise planned this spring.

It's worth noting that although towns along the ocean face the most immediate threat from tsunamis, river towns from Warrenton and Astoria to Ilwaco and Chinook, Wash., also are very much at risk. Some have convenient nearby hills, but residents still need to carefully plan evacuation and survival strategies - once the ground stops shaking, you need to be ready to move, not milling around waiting for instructions or wondering whether you need to rescue your spouse. All family members should know the plan and act upon it.

It isn't enough to be alarmed about quake and tsunami risk. Prepare to survive.

- M.S.W.

Matt Winters is editor of the Chinook Observer


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