Just past Pine Street, my car began sliding down Boren. The ice had taken control, so I was free to take in the sights, like the van stopped...

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Just past Pine Street, my car began sliding down Boren.

The ice had taken control, so I was free to take in the sights, like the van stopped in front of me, and to wonder why the city had sanded only one side of the street. Well, the city can’t do everything, and sometimes it can’t do anything.

Several times in the past couple of months, nature has taken the driver’s seat and reminded us that what we call normal is a fragile condition.

Wind, rain, snow can take our ability to move freely, our warmth, our technology, but they are just nuisances compared with what’s ahead.

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This is earthquake country and the big one is due.

Most of us don’t dwell on that, but Michael Lienau does.

Lienau contacted me because he thought now would be a good time to tell people to get ready for that quake, while they know that nature can get the best of them and that help doesn’t always come.

We’ll forget all that in a few days. It’s human nature.

Lienau, a Camano Island filmmaker, can’t forget it because he was near Mount St. Helens when it blew in 1980 and was trapped four days by a secondary eruption.

He was 20 years old and trying to make a name for himself by capturing the mountain’s fury. Things that happen to you at that age leave an impression.

The Northwest is a dangerous place. “We have volcanoes, earthquakes. We can have tsunamis and bird flu,” he said. There are hazardous chemicals all around and terrorism is always possible.

People think disasters only happen to other people, he said, but “I learned, no, it can happen to me.”

Lienau thinks everyone ought to be prepared to survive several days on their own.

He made a documentary, “The Fire Below Us,” about Mount St. Helens and befriended volcanologists, some of whom switched to seismology, studying the forces that produce earthquakes.

Lienau says the Nisqually quake in 2001 lulled people into believing they could handle an earthquake.

But quakes aren’t all the same. Nisqually was a deep quake, the kind that tends to cause the least damage on the surface.

Sometime we’ll have a significant shaking from the Seattle fault, a shallow quake that causes lots of damage. But the worst will be a subduction zone quake, which would rock all of Cascadia, from southern British Columbia into Northern California.

He made a film about that, “Cascadia: The Hidden Fire,” and survival instruction videos for businesses and homeowners. See his Web site, www.everyoneprepared.org.

People need to be prepared to care for themselves and help their neighbors, he said.

We had 9/11 and Katrina, but we still expect government or our technology will take care of us. The government can’t even sand the streets. How long did it take to get your power back last month?

“I’m not going to sit around and wait for FEMA to come and rescue me,” Lienau said.

Neither should the rest of us.

Tuesday, I was lucky. I didn’t slide into the stopped van. But I won’t leave disaster preparedness to chance.

Jerry Large’s column appears Monday and Thursday. Reach him at 206-464-3346 or jlarge@seattletimes.com.