Prepared Islanders

Islanders are human. We have our share of hoarders, people panicked by a threat they don’t understand. We also have our share of people better prepared than most. And then, there are those who are simply creative and adaptable. Most people are a mix. Islanders by the Salish Sea live in a place that encourages preparedness, creativity, and adaptability. (As well as built-in social distancing, aka #RuralDistancing.)

Undoubtedly, some islander planned for this particular pandemic years ago. Congratulations to anyone who stocked up on the right supplies (which is largely an individual choice.)

One of the truths about islands is that they can be cut off more readily than most. Storms, earthquakes (Whidbey Shakes), tsunamis, or even freakish accidents can be enough to close two ferries and one bridge. The ferry to Port Townsend closes regularly simply because of tides and currents. Trips to Costco are less trivial than they are for folks in mainland suburbia. Big pantries are popular. Power outages are common enough that generators are popular, too. Going off the grid is easier in a place that didn’t get a grid until about a century ago.

Islands attract boats and boaters. It would interesting to tour the various marinas (maintaining a six foot distance) to see how many boats have become self-sequestered live-aboards, and how many slips are empty as their captains and crews decided to nautically distance themselves by firing up the motor, or setting sail. Some have the resources to cross the Pacific. They can certainly sail several laps around the Sea’s protected waters.

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Whidbey Island is surrounded by mountains, and national forests and parks. Backcountry travelers, whether hiking or skiing, are practiced in surviving and enjoying time with very little. Days or weeks in the wilderness are possible with what can fit on a person’s back, maybe with a bit of resupply. They’re probably comfortable with using very little toilet paper, and not having a problem with freeze-dried food. Only a few will travel this time of the year, but someone is almost certainly out there.

Islanders are encouraged to create and keep emergency preparedness kits. Our likelihood of experiencing an earthquake is relatively high. A big enough quake could close those ferry terminals and the bridge, possibly for weeks or months. Since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, we’ve witnessed many areas where organized assistance took much longer than 72 hours to arrive. The response to Puerto Rico’s problems is a more recent example.


Ironically, labeling something as an ‘earthquake preparedness kit’ can mentally set it aside as something to only open after an earthquake. A proper kit should already have masks, gloves, and sanitizing supplies. Such kits should be opened regularly anyway. This crisis is an excellent opportunity to take the time to double check those supplies, and possibly find what you need amongst things you already have. There should be toilet paper in there. If not, add some – whenever you can find some.

If you don’t have a kit, there are instructions and suggestions online. (FEMA) A more direct source is to ask your neighbors about their kits. You may be the first and inspire a trend.

Planners know, plans rarely survive their first step. Prepare for an earthquake. Find yourself dealing with a pandemic. Prepare to be cut off from water, power, and the internet. Find yourself with ample water, power, and connectivity; but find yourself dealing with basic hygiene, social distancing, working from home. Instead of freeze-dried food, we get to deal with freezers and pantries to fill. Restaurants are delivering food. Services that didn’t exist by choice are now being added by necessity. Despite the differences in the crises, preparing for one can make a different one more manageable.