Alaskans get ready for the next big one

Pat Johnson displays emergency items he keeps close at hand. -Photo by McKibben Jackinsky, Homer News

Pat Johnson displays emergency items he keeps close at hand. -Photo by McKibben Jackinsky, Homer News

With today marking the 50th anniversary of what has become known as the Great Alaskan Earthquake, Alaskans are even more mindful of what it takes to prepare.

An Emergency Preparedness Fair held March 15 at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, helped get minds focused in that direction. A display by Ray and Maxine Hillman offered lists of what should be in a 72-hour emergency backpack for one person, for a couple and for a family of four. While on paper it looked like a bulky amount of stuff, the Hillmans demonstrated how compactly it could be stored.

A display by Pat Johnson made it clear he never goes hunting without making sure he has everything an emergency might require. Johnson had more than one story about times he’s had to dip into those supplies, too. Joyce Turkington showed how to prepare meals ahead of time so they were available for easy use. Jackie Dentz offered cost-cutting tips for preparing emergency packs. Linda Hogan was on hand to represent American Red Cross Alaska. And while the fair was about preparing for emergencies in general, the Homer Volunteer Fire Department presented a video that focused on earthquake-generated tsunamis.

Today, at 1:36 p.m., events around the state, the peninsula and the Homer area commemorate the 1964 earthquake and offer opportunities for Alaskans to fine-tune their readiness.

The city of Homer is conducting an extensive table top exercise that will begin after the tsunami siren test at about 10:15 a.m. and will continue through 5 p.m., as well as Friday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is participating in the “Great Alaska ShakeOut “Drop, Cover and Hold On!” drill sponsored by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, the National Weather Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center.

“We do regular drills, but the schools have been instructed for their earthquake drill to do it on this day at this time,” said Pegge Erkeneff, spokesperson for the district.

Each school develops its drill scenario, but all the schools participate in an emergency radio communication review.

South Peninsula Hospital also will go into drill mode at 1:36 p.m.

“We will give a one-minute advance warning, then at 1:36 p.m., we will use the overhead paging system to announce the drill,” said SPH spokesperson Derotha Ferraro. “We will give detailed instructions on what to do, then we will thank everyone for participating. A similar activity will happen in the outlying buildings and clinics, just not with an overhead page.”

Everyone in the hospital will be advised in advance of the drill. Anyone who happens to be in the hospital at that time will be invited to participate.

“The overhead page will instruct everyone in the building who can safely drop, cover and hold on to do so,” said Ferraro. “Will be giving out an instructional flyer to everyone coming into the building starting at 11 a.m.”

Malone Insurance Agency is one of the local businesses that have signed up to participate. In Seldovia, Mary Klinger, the city clerk, will be announcing a drill for her staff.

“I signed up to participate with the state because I think this is pretty awesome,” she said of the statewide drill.

Locally, the following events have been scheduled to practice readiness and commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March 27, 1964, earthquake:

• Today, about 10:15 a.m., a live tsunami siren test.

• Today, 1:36 p.m.: Practice proper earthquake response with “Drop, Cover and Hold On!” at 1:36 p.m. The state has set a goal of having 100,000 Alaskans participate. The state has participated in drills around the United States for the past two years, but this year marks the first time Alaska has held its own drill. For more information and to register as a drill participant, visit

• Today, 5:30 p.m.: 3/27/64: The Kenai Peninsula Remembers “The Big One,” KBBI Public Radio AM 890. KBBI has prepared a special radio documentary about the 50th anniversary of the Great Alaska Earthquake.

• Today, 6 p.m. 1964 Earthquake Commemoration, Homer Public Library. Survivors of the  March 27, 1964, Great Alaska Earthquake discuss their experiences. Copies will be given away of “Where Were You? Alaska ’64 Earthquake,” a 1996 publication edited by Joy Griffin for the Friends of the Homer Public Library.

Share your Alaska earthquake stories and photos at

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at



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