It Wasn’t the Big One– Yet
25 August 2014
I was jolted at 3:20 Sunday morning by a 6.1 earthquake. I live about 15 miles as the crow flies from the epicenter of the quake. I woke up as the bed began to shake –noticeable enough to wake me – and then stronger and stronger. The quake went on for about 20 seconds- which actually feels like a VERY long time - and it was a noisy one. You could hear the house creaking as it shook back and forth. I laid in bed thinking –I wonder if this is the big one. It’s been almost 25 years since the 1989 Loma Prieta Quake which was the last big quake to hit the bay area. I was out of town when that hit – at the national CPCU convention –and trust me –there is no weirder place to be than an insurance convention when a major disaster hits. It was the night of the confirmation dinner and the hotel commandeered every television in the place so the different insurance carriers could meet the rest of their crew, huddle in front of the television and decide what they were going to do. The shaking got stronger. It wasn’t a rolling motion – it was back and forth. Imagine your bed on an electric toothbrush or an oscillating saw. I was in a third floor bedroom and was reminded of my great grandfather who survived the 1906 earthquake because he was in a top floor bedroom when the hotel he was staying in collapsed, killing almost everyone in it. He rolled under an iron bed as the ceiling began to fall and that was part of what saved his life. (whew! Thanks Gramps for being smart enough to do that. I kind of like being here.) We all know that disasters happen. I write and speak regularly on topics such as catastrophe management but it always feels like such a remote possibility that anything will REALLY happen to me. But this weekend, as the house shook back and forth, I realized it has been a while since I checked the contents of my emergency kit, made sure the water supplies were fresh, backed up copies of all my documents to the cloud, or updated my home inventory. The shaking calmed down and then stopped. Nothing seemed damaged – nothing had fallen over or broken. I turned on the radio and began to listen to see what had happened. At 3 in the morning, it takes a while for the pre-recorded program to be interrupted with real news. But Facebook and Twitter – oh thank you social media – was already live with friends actively posting information from a wide variety of sources. And I was already getting messages – are you okay. The news came on and one of the first things mentioned – in the first thirty minutes after the quake – was a mention of a large carrier who had already contacted the news station to let them know where adjusters would be, an 800 number and mention that they were already out contacting people. And remember – this is earthquake insurance – most people don’t even have coverage. Talk about rapid contact. Later that afternoon, I was out to lunch with friends as we celebrated a birthday. The topic of conversation kept coming back to the earthquake. Light comments - “Did you see what happened at Silver Oak? I volunteer to go clean it up – with a straw!) as well as detailed discussions about emergency kits, and what we’ll do in the event that the big one hits. It wasn’t the big one… for me. But in Napa, it was the big one for a lot of people. It’s times like these that remind us why we’re in this business.