Producer's Notes

Producer's Notes

Are You Ready for a Rumble?

Here is how it always seems to go. Somewhere on the planet there is a major disaster, like an earthquake, tsunami, or nuclear meltdown. National and local news stations broadcast dramatic images of the rubble, the waves, or the men in space suits cleaning up the radiation. And then, inevitably, they all ask that one question.

“Could it happen here?”

You’ll then get a sensational report from a breathless reporter, telling you in no uncertain terms that said earthquake, tsunami or nuclear meltdown could absolutely happen where you live, and reminding you how woefully unprepared you are.

Ordinarily, we here at PBS would leave that kind of reporting to our commercial brethren. But in the case of last week’s earthquake in Japan, we have to plead mea culpa. This week’s episode of "KCTS 9 Connects" features a relatively sensational story from a breathless reporter (me), telling you in no uncertain terms that the same kind of earthquake that hit Japan will absolutely happen in the Pacific Northwest, and reminding you how woefully unprepared you are.

But you know what? In this case, it’s warranted. Notice I didn’t say that such an earthquake could happen in the Pacific Northwest, I said will. The 8.9 earthquake in Japan was what’s known as a Megathrust quake. They are the most powerful kind of earthquake, measuring an average of magnitude 9 or greater. They can only happen in a few places around the world – and the northwest coast of the U.S. is one of them.

We’ve had one before. In 1701, a megathrust quake off the Washington coast spawned tsunamis that battered our shores, and sent one tsunami across the ocean to Japan. Scientists say megathrust quakes happen on a given fault line about every 300 to 500 years. Which means we’re due. It might not happen for another 100 years, but it could very well happen tomorrow.

So go ahead and accuse us of jumping on the “Could It Happen Here?” bandwagon. Guilty as charged. But let me ask you -- do you have a disaster plan for your family? Do you have at least three days of canned food drinking water stored in your home? Do you have a disaster kit, or even a first aid kit?

Disaster experts tell us that most people don’t have those things. Most people are woefully unprepared. Most people see something like the earthquake in Japan and think to themselves, “It couldn’t happen here.”

Think again.

Ethan Morris, Senior Producer

Japan Earthquake - March 18, 2011


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