Are you prepared for when disaster hits?

Jane’s Story: Part 2 in a series

Almost a year before the historic earthquakes hit Ridgecrest, disaster preparedness expert Robert OBergfell posted the following scenario in September 2018 for hundreds of social media followers. In this second part of the series, we see Jane’s perspective. Keep reading the News Review for the next installments.

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By ROBERT OBERGFELL

Emergency Operations Coordinator

It’s the same night in January, cool and gonna get cold. Jane just got off work, and damn what a shift at the hospital! She loves her job, but the last week has been crazy. And if work weren’t enough, she wants to make it home to see the kids. Joe has the kid watch on the late nights.

Pulling out of the parking lot, she makes it onto the main road and turns toward home. She remembers they are almost out of milk and swings into the shopping center.

She heads inside, and realizes that she forgot her sweater. She grabs the milk and then decides apples for everyone. And maybe some ice cream. Even she could use some with a little kahlua and Baileys on it!

She sees a friend but doesn’t want to be distracted and cuts into an aisle. Then, without notice, it is black. Not a light on. Pitch black. She hears glass breaking and someone crying out. She looks toward the front of the store and can see a little glow. She runs into the end of a display, dropping the milk which explodes on the floor. She almost loses her balance.

Using the glow as her guide, she lurches forward and bumps into a lady who is standing frozen. She finds chaos at the entrance. Nothing works. The only light is from the battery-powered “exit” signs.

She can see outside, and the view is even worse — it’s dark! She keeps walking. Right next to her are a man and a woman pushing out two carts of food, taking full advantage of the darkness and confusion.

It’s still so dark that even the headlights of the cars seem dim. She gets into her car and heads for home.

Pulling out, she sees there are no street lights. No stop lights. Not a light on in any building — even the horizon is black. As she pulls out of the lot she hears a loud crash and sees that two cars have collided at the intersection about a 70 yards away. Nurse vibe kicks in, and she goes to help. One driver gets out, but the other is not moving. She approaches the car and the elderly woman is awake but bleeding after her head struck the steering wheel. Jane feels bad because the woman asks if it was her fault. Hell, Jane thinks, there aren’t any lights — whose fault would it be? Back to the wound. It’s hard to see with just the overhead light and her headlights as cars continue to pull around the wreck. No one is stopping.

She attempts to call 9-1-1 and can see that her phone has power but nothing is visible on the screen. Nothing.

She asks some people now standing about to hold pressure on the wound and goes back to her car. Inside she reaches into her backpack and pulls out the 4-by-4 patches she keeps just in case, stretch tape, and her “First Light” flashlight along with her sweater. She grabs a “Zip Lock” baggie and drops her cell into it to keep it dry.

Back at the car everyone is talking about how there is no power — no TV, no phones.

She doesn’t panic, but the vibe is making the hair on the back of her neck stand on end. She checks on the woman and can see an emergency vehicle approaching. It pulls alongside and Jane tells the EMT about the woman. The EMT tells her there is no power anywhere. ANYWHERE. They will handle the woman. Jane worries about home.

No power means a lot of “no anything”! She is cold, and when she heads back to the car, she sees that the driver-side tires are flat. She must have run over some debris from the accident. Damn. She puts the car into gear and pulls it into the parking lot, locks it, but leaves the windows down.

Home is only a few miles away. She decides she will walk — nothing she doesn’t do every morning. It starts to drizzle. This will not be the only wreck, she thinks. She kicks off her Crocs and pulls on her Brooks running shoes that she keeps in the car. She grabs her Leatherback gear pack or BOB (Bug-out bag) and drags out a Hefty Steel Sack. Putting a hole in the top with her “Benchmade Griptillian” knife and making arm holes, like a jacket. Wet is cold and dry is better, she thinks, and pulls on a beanie. She also puts on a set of wool “burglar” gloves. She bought 3 sets at K-mart for 99 cents before it closed! Grabs a drink from a bottle of water and quickly eats a KIND energy bar, knowing she was already hungry. She pulls on her pack and pulls the “Hefty” jacket over it, and heads home with a brisk step, using the flashlight only when she has to.

She decides to stick to the main roads. She has paid attention to warnings coming out of disasters, and although she doesn’t know the why or how come, everything is cautious until you know better. With the drizzle, the temperature is dropping fast. She puts on her work safety glasses to protect her eyes from anything she can’t see.

She begins to go over her emergency preparations at home. She hopes Joe has filled up his car, like she does. Never less than half a tank!

A little farther along a clerk is yelling at some people running with beer and alcohol bottles dropping as they go. She sees emergency lights down some of the streets and can also her sirens in the distance. The glow of a fire is apparent around the corner and as she gets there, people are in the street and a single fire engine and crew works to slow the flames. Someone says they were using the barbecue to light the house …

Outside, it’s not just cold. It’s foggy. And the heavy darkness is not helping. She tells herself to keep walking. At least, looking homeless, she draws less attention.

It’s only been a couple hours. A little father along, full advantage is being taken of the pitch blackness — dumpsters are lined across a street in a makeshift roadblock. But she sees no one and cautiously passes between the cans. Then she notices shadows milling at the edges of the road and clutches her knife and keys, but no one pays her attention in her current garb. More sirens are heard, but other than what appears to be another house fire she is in the dark, wet, cold and alone.

It takes her a full three hours to make it to her neighborhood. She is surprised to see the activity. Grills lit up in front yards, flashlights cut the darkness, doors of homes standing open. No one is conserving, in spite of the cold, and the activity is hectic. Exhausted from the walk, the stress, the cold, the not knowing, she reaches the house and finds Joe waiting on the porch.

(To be continued next week ...)

Story First Published: 2019-08-09