PAT NEAL: Stop, drop, cover and hold on

IT’S BEEN ANOTHER tough week in the news.

Government officials, geological prognosticators and conspiracy theorists have banded together for Washington state’s Great ShakeOut.

This is part of a worldwide event where millions of people will practice how to “drop, cover and hold on” in an effort to cope with an earthquake, tsunami or other disasters that could occur at any time when you least expect it.

It’s not a question of if these disasters will occur.

It is simply a matter of when we will be faced with the necessity of surviving for weeks without all of the luxuries we take for granted in the modern world in which some of us live.

Imagine going for weeks without electricity, heat or even water.

Forget about driving. Our antique bridges and roads will be impassable even if you could buy gasoline for your vehicle.

Never mind trying to find medicine, fast food or power for the electronic devices on which we depend.

We need look no further than Tse-whit-zen on the Port Angeles waterfront to see what the future has in store.

Tse-whit-zen is an archaeological site that represents the largest Native American village discovered in Washington state.

In fact, Tse-whit-zen is recognized as one of the two most important archaeological sites in America.

An article in the Peninsula Daily News revealed that Tse-whit-zen was a major trading center with a history going back 2,700 years.

Archaeologists determined Tse-whit-zen was wiped out five times by devastating tsunamis.

These tsunamis were the result of subduction events in a convergence zone where tectonic plates slip beneath each other resulting in violent geologic phenomenon.

Our own Cascadia Subduction Zone lies just offshore.

This is a thousand-kilometer long “megathrust” dipping fault that stretches from Northern Vancouver Island to Cape Mendocino, Calif.

This fault separates the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate and the North American continent.

Geologists have determined that every 500 years or so these plates slip, resulting in a devastating 9-something magnitude earthquake and an associated tsunami that have the potential to destroy all man-made structures on the Olympic Peninsula.

Which begs the question: What will it do to the fishing?

Plenty. Fishing could become much more than a recreational activity once all of the grocery stores are leveled.

My own Great Washington ShakeOut Drill for earthquake preparedness involves fishing, smoking fish and super-sizing all fast food orders.

With the miracle of chemical preservatives in our nation’s fast foods, it is possible to store these gustatorial wonders for extended periods without refrigeration, ensuring an adequate food supply during whatever natural disasters might befall us.

Beyond fishing and stocking up on fast foods there are many other disaster preparedness strategies available for this year’s Great ShakeOut drill.

Experts tell us we should be prepared to go for at least two weeks with nothing but our own resources to rely on.

In addition, you should have an emergency survival kit, which in itself can be a major investment in blue plastic tarps, propane-powered appliances, and water gathering and purifying devices.

This year’s ShakeOut Drill is scheduled for 10:17 a.m. Thursday.

This means that wherever you are at that moment — at home, at work, at school or fishing, you should drop, cover and hold on as if there were a major earthquake occurring at that very moment.

Then, stay in this position for at least 60 seconds.

So far 1.5 million people in Washington have signed up to participate.

It sounds like fun.

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Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing and rafting guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patneal [email protected].