Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Earthquake Lessons

Photo by km6xo.

Stumbling down my hilly street after a snowstorm today I started thinking about earthquakes. Not that I am expecting one, but all emergencies have certain things in common.

Stewart Brand created the Whole Earth Catalog and Whole Earth Review - essentially creating an empire on the concept of "Access To Tools." When the Loma Prieta earthquake struck he was in the Marina district of San Francisco. He parked his car and ran off to help - leaving all of his valuable equipment in the trunk. So much for access to tools.

Afterwards, everyone rushed to congratulate and reward heroic rescuers like Brand but, he noticed, no one asked them what they had learned from the experience.

So he did ask and the results were the best article I ever read in Whole Earth Review. I am pleased but not surprised to see that it is available on the web.

If you don't have time to read the whole article, flip to the last page where the lessons are summarized. It could save your life, or help you save someone else's. As I suggested, some of them apply to any emergency. For example:

• Give people who are trapped all the information you’ve got, and enlist their help. Treat them not as helpless victims but as an exceptionally motivated part of the rescue team.
• Most action in a disaster is imitative. Most effective leadership is by example.
• Bystanders make the convenient assumption that everything is being taken care of by the people already helping. That’s seldom accurate.
• Collect tools!

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