With all of the sad news out of Japan and as time progresses, it seems the news does not get any better. I work lots of JA's in each and every contest and I have to wonder how many of those familiar callsigns I won't hear again. My heart goes out to Japan and all those effected by this disaster. Although not having to worry about the direct effects of a Tsunami, I do keep thinking about the next earthquake. Around these parts, it's not will it happen, but when it happens. Living not far from the Denali fault line always has me asking that same question.
Before moving to Alaska, earthquakes were something I never experienced but heard lots about on the news. I have since felt several earthquakes and the strongest only rated around a 5.4 or so. I'm surprised at how many folks who live around here do not carry earthquake insurance, something I gladly pay extra for. The Denali fault produced a 7.9 earthquake in 2002, the year before we arrived here. As much as we like to think we can predict such things, the truth is, we really can't. I think there are tell tale signs that researchers can uncover but in the end, we all expect the worst but hope it never happens.
I believe being involved in ham radio has given me a sense of satisfaction that when we do receive a large earthquake and my equipment survives, I would at least have contact with the outside world. I have been building my portable station along with different sources of power. With the wake of disaster in Japan, it got me thinking how ready my station really is. It seems it takes something BIG to get us thinking and many times, these events are tragic. Just like how we are reading and hearing all over the news how countries are reevaluating their nuclear programs.
Ham radio has been the key source of communication in many disasters and there is not doubt in my mind that hundreds of hams are ready at a moments notice. But, how prepared are you? If you lose your tower, do you have portable antenna's and portable power? If you have no gasoline, do you have a way to charge batteries to keep your equipment running? Natural disasters are a sure thing and depending on what part of the world you are in may depend on the type (or types) of disasters you could face. My main concern here is earthquakes, extreme cold, and avalanches. One of the many things I have learned living in such a remote part of the state is being prepared. I am far more prepared living here than I ever was living back in Ohio. In Ohio, most anything I needed was just a few minutes down the road. Here, I have to drive 2 hours to get to the nearest Wal-mart, major grocery store, hospital, etc. Living here has made me grow up and see the light. Alaska, like many places, is about extremes, especially when it comes to the weather.
When you look at the USGS map of Alaska and see the amount of earthquakes we have here it's unbelievable. Most are small of course but even the larger ones do not make news because we don't have the population here that other places do, like California or Japan. When you have millions of people living in these seismically active regions, if something like that happens, it's BIG news because so many are effected. Anchorage alone is only home to 280,000 people as reported in the 2008 Census.
I hope the very best for our friends in Japan, and this is something that will effect the world for a very long time. I'm taking another look at my preparedness and my ability to operate during an emergency. It would not only benefit me, but it would benefit my community. Coming from an emergency services and similar background field, it's good to be prepared for anything but in the end, it's hard to be prepared for everything!