How to prepare for the Big One

If one managed to accumulate enough supplies for survival following the "Big One," where could it be stored that might offer hope of finding it in the rubble if the house collapsed?

— Barbara H., Medford

You pose an interesting question, Barbara, one that deserves a rock-solid answer.

Of course, we are assuming you are referring to an earthquake, not the "Big One" of the University of Oregon Ducks going all the way in the March madness of the NCAA men's basketball competition.

We happen to know you are an avid Duck fan, Barbara.

But we digress.

We checked in with Eric Dittmer, a retired geology professor from Southern Oregon University who is helping inform folks about what to do in the event of a big earthquake.

"With the wood-frame houses that are common here, most houses probably would not collapse," he observes. "Most of our houses are very resilient. You will likely get some broken glass and stuff off the shelves, but the house will probably remain standing."

However, he says it is a good idea to have your emergency kit in something like a large plastic tub, placing it in an area such as an outside patio or even a garage.

"A lot of people have their kit in the RV, or where they keep their camping gear," he said.

In the event of a big quake, experts say we should expect to be totally self-sufficient for at least three days.

That means setting aside a supply of food, water, first-aid supplies, prescription medicine, flashlight, a battery-operated radio, warm clothe, a tent and bedding.

"After an earthquake stops, and you've practiced duck and cover, you can go outside and access your emergency supplies," Dittmer said.

Folks who study quakes estimate that a large quake strikes western Oregon about every 300 years. Unfortunately, the last big quake occurred on Jan. 26, 1700. That means we are overdue, Barbara, just like the Ducks are overdue, given the fact they haven't won the "Big One" in basketball since 1939.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

Share This Story