Lockdown, a novel - synopsis

When disaster strikes, where do you turn?

Rowan Morgan thinks she’s ready for the rare great earthquake that devastates the Pacific Northwest but she quickly finds out there is more to emergency preparation than stockpiling food. Disasters change people, make them anxious.

Anxious people make bad decisions, take silly risks. 

At their father’s insistence Rowan and her brother have taken first aid courses, learned to fish and hunt, and know to close ranks around the family in emergencies. When she has to put that training into practice, Rowan discovers many situations are not covered in survival manuals.


Lockdown a novel

Young Adult Fiction

ISBN: 978-1926531922                                                        

Available from:          

Great Plains Teen Fiction


or your local independent bookseller

Are you feeling a bit like a lunatic?

Last night a super-moon shone in the night sky, so brilliant you could read a book by it. A super-moon looks huge because it is closer to earth than ever. It is a perigee moon.


Lockdown happens on a hot August day, much like the summer we are having now in the Pacific Northwest. At the start of the novel there is a rare great earthquake that alters life forever for Rowan Morgan.

The theme of the novel is chaos: how do people behave when their lives are changed dramatically and forever?

Stephen Hawking said that intelligence is the ability to adapt to change. Ivan Urlaub added to that by saying wisdom is knowing why or how to adapt for more than personal or economic gain.

Some people think a full moon influences our behaviour. This is called the lunar effect. If the earthquake had happened during a super-moon, would the characters have acted differently?

Do any characters in Lockdown show that they can adapt for the new order of things? Who adapts for personal gain and who adapts to help others?



Lockdown is being released this month (April 2014) by Great Plains Publishing. Please order it either directly from the publisher or ask for it at your neighbourhood bookshop. 

If you prefer to borrow rather than buy, please ask for it at your local library branch.

Synopsis: When a great earthquake rocks the Pacific Northwest, fifteen-year-old Rowan Morgan is hiking in a suburban forest. Tremors rip the coast from Oregon to Alaska and turn Rowan’s world upside down. After her father is wounded and taken to the hospital, Rowan and her brother shelter inside his earthquake-proof, survivalist home. While the electrified fences offer some protection, it isn’t long before mobs gather, desperate for some of the food and water rumoured to be held inside.

Rowan knows that if the hungry neighbours had any true idea of the riches in her father’s cellar and water tanks, they wouldn’t be sent away so easily. Early one morning, Rowan leaves the compound and sets off in search of her father. She is turned away from the hospital and so goes to check on nearby friends where she finds a local gang has moved in. She escapes from them only to run into a stranger she met in the forest the day before. Why is he following her and what does he want?

Lockdown explores the chaos that follows a natural disaster and looks at how people react when tnormal social boundaries are shaken.


ShakeOut BC Day - Thursday October 17, 2013 10:17 AM

Earthquake Preparation!

Are you participating in the Great British Columia Shake Out? Why would you do that? From the ShakeOut website:

"While potential earthquake hazards depend on your location, everywhere in British Columbia is considered at high risk in relation to the rest of Canada. For example, on January 26, 1700, a magnitude 9 earthquake (similar to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake off the coast of Japan) shook the entire province as well as Washington, Oregon, and California, and generated a massive tsunami.

What we do now will determine our quality of life after our next big earthquake. Are you prepared to survive and recover quickly?"

Get more information here: ShakeOut BC


Photo from UBC archives via Wikimedia Commons: Virgin Forest in Stanley Park 1912 by Rosetti Photographic Studios

Can I get a redo?

Photo: Failed by VCTStyle

There are three stages to emergency planning: preparation, the event, and recovery. In June I blogged about how to prepare psychologically for the recovery stage of an emergency or disaster. Now I’m wondering how to prepare psychologically for the event itself.

Hypothetical situation: it’s a sunny, warm summer day. This month is the driest on record for your city. One evening around dinnertime you look out the front window and find a raging river of mud has taken over your street.

Do you:

  1. Throw on your bathing suit and flip flops and go wading with all the kids?
  2. Grab your camera and start taking pictures?
  3. Text your BF to come over and enjoy the spectacle?
  4. Hide under your bed until it’s all over?
  5. See if you still have fresh water and fill up every large container in your house in case supply is disrupted?

Any answer but #5 is a fail. What did I do? I grabbed my camera and took pictures. When neighbours emerged from their houses to look at it with me, I enjoyed a social moment. Then and only then did I go inside and start doing what I should have done at the outset.

I’ve been a safety warden in an office tower and had the helmet and flashlight to prove it. I’ve trained to prepare properties for bushfires with Fire & Rescue New South Wales. I’ve taken emergency preparedness courses with North Shore Emergency Management teams. It feels like I should have responded more sensibly.

One good thing – it was only a ruptured water main. The District of North Vancouver moved its crews in quickly and cleared the mess. But in a true disaster, like a major earthquake, there won’t be nearly enough resources to go around. That river of mud and debris would signal our drinking water running down to the sea with no hope of recovering it.

The risk of thinking about disasters is that we may only prepare for recovery. Is there any way to prepare for the event itself? I’m not sure. I like to think of Tuesday’s event as a dress rehearsal where the result came back must try harder.

Have you ever been in an emergency situation where you wish you’d responded more proactively? Or have you ever done exactly what you should have done and felt that sense of being in control, as much as being in control is possible in an emergency or disaster situation? 


Photo by Maggie Bolitho

How do you prepare your inner self?

Okay so you’ve prepared yourself for disaster. If you’ve ticked each of these:

Maslow, with his Hierarchy of Needs would probably give you an A-plus for meeting the two bottom levels of his pyramid. Those levels are physiological necessities and personal safety.

Most emergency prep instructions only address these two core levels. Some add the other important component:

Should there be another level to emergency preparation? You know that old game ‘if you could only take one book with you to a desert island, what would it be?’ Maybe you should put a copy of that cherished entertainment into your pack. Maybe these items should be added to the checklist:

  • Books, cards, and board games, things allow us to escape to another world when our immediate environment offers little joy.

One thing we will have to cope with after a major disaster is the troubling uncertainty of life around us. Perhaps our packs should have meditation CD’s and Tibetan singing bowls? Impractical for sure but you get my point. We don’t have to be just physically prepared for disaster, we have to brace ourselves psychologically as well.

The dog in this picture is wearing an Anxiety Wrap that uses maintained pressure and acupressure to end thunderstorm fear, separation anxiety, noise phobias and more. I don’t know if it works or not but if it does, I wonder if the technology couldn’t be applied for humans? If so, we could all pack an anxiety wrap in our bug-out bag.

Are you good with sudden and dramatic changes in your life? How does a person prepare themselves for the unthinkable? Is there any point in trying or should we just go with the flow should worse come to worst?


Photo from Wikimedia Commons by: www.anxietywrap.com

Are you ready? Ready for what?

I have an earthquake app on my iPad. That’s why I can tell you that within the past twenty-four hours there have been eight earthquakes within 1,050 kilometres (652 miles) of Vancouver, BC. From Alaska to Northern California they ranged from magnitude 2.5 to 4.5. Some quakes have happened offshore but most were on land.

Every time a quake registers somewhere on the globe, my iPad chimes an alert. Sometimes the proximity to where I am is scary but having information makes me feel a little bit more in control, not that I can do anything about it.

I use Quakes – Earthquake Notifications by TAWCS to monitor this information and watch the updates with great, if a little morbid, interest. There are a lot of other earthquake applications out there too, along with apps that will alert you to tornadoes, tsunamis, volcanoes and just plain ‘severe weather.’ I haven’t investigated those other apps as they aren’t the focus of my novel but it makes me wonder what disaster do we prepare for?

Are you disaster-ready? What external threat worries you the most?