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Are you ready for 'The Big One'?

Should it strike, your survival may depend on how well you are prepared

Posted: August 2, 2008 9:30 p.m.
Updated: October 4, 2008 5:01 a.m.

A Los Angeles County firefighter works on putting out one of the many mobile home fires that started after the Jan. 17, 1994 Northridge earthquake.

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Remember the moment Tuesday morning when you realized the ground was shaking? Remember the rush of panic in thinking that it was finally the Big One?

In those seconds of disbelief, did you think to yourself about whether you and your family were prepared?
Although Tuesday’s earthquake was not “the big one” experts have been predicting, the mini shaker serves as a reminder that the Santa Clarita Valley is prone to earthquakes.

On top of that, the upcoming months will bring Santa Ana winds, which increases the likelihood of wildfires occurring in the local valley.

With those in mind, planning ahead is the key to safety and local experts offer these tips for those preparing or updating their safety procedures.

Adele MacPherson, community services superintendent for the city, believes local residents can take a lesson from this week’s shaker.

“That’s a good reminder that people need to make sure that everything in their home is fastened down,” she said.

MacPherson suggested people examine their homes room by room to make sure that each space is safe.

During that time, homeowners can also make sure doors have latches to prevent any objects from falling out and creating hazards.

“Just from that gentle movement (on Tuesday), we can see how much damage can be caused by the ground movement,” she said.

Even though buildings are built to withstand earthquakes, MacPherson believes it’s just as important to “make sure that what we put inside doesn’t harm us.”

MacPherson also recommends families update their emergency contact lists, which would include information about who to notify in case of an emergency and who is authorized to pick up children from school if the quake takes place during the day.

“This one was the first big shaking during the day,” she said. “It really brings into play lots of different things.”

The city of Santa Clarita’s emergency services Web site offers a detailed seven-step list for families to go through before, during and after an earthquake.

For example, the information, provided by, points out that people should practice “drop, cover and hold on” during an earthquake.

That means taking cover under a strong desk or table and holding on or if in bed, staying in the bed and covering your head with a pillow for protection.

Nick Samaniego, spokesman for the American Red Cross, said during an earthquake, you “want to maintain a calm demeanor. Stay calm for the shaking to stop.”

“Then you want to put the family plan in action, especially when separated,” he said.

After making sure everyone is accounted for, Samaniego said it’s smart to call an out-of-town contact to let them know the family is safe.

The American Red Cross also offers lists of information online, which offers tips for people on what to do after an earthquake.

For instance, families should check people for injuries while also examining the home to take into account the type of damage sustained.

Although families can plan for a wildfire by clearing brush and any fire hazards around their home, Samaniego believes wildfire preparation is more about having a go kit.

“In an earthquake, you want to have supplies to be self-sufficient at home,” he said. “With a wildfire, it’s being ready to go at a moment’s notice.”

That means having all of the family’s emergency documents and any prescription medication information handy in case a home is evacuated by fire and sheriff’s officials.

In addition, families should have their crucial belongings in one location, as well as pack necessities, like clothing, in case they need to stay overnight at a shelter or other emergency location.

Any help coming?
Although residents should be prepared to live on their own during a major disaster like an earthquake or wildfire, they can depend on local agencies like the city of Santa Clarita and American Red Cross to step in.

Samaniego said as soon as possible, Red Cross would set up shelters in the needed areas, where victims can receive limited medical assistance and supplies.

MacPherson said the city’s trained staff would work to keep residents informed.

“We just got a new emergency page on the Web site and want people to sign up about emergency notification,” she said.

The role of the city would be more of communication as MacPherson said city officials will communicate with fire and sheriff’s officials to relay information to the public.

For example, during a wildfire, MacPherson said “we coordinate with them for road closures, getting public information out.”

Regardless of what disasters strike the Santa Clarita Valley, the best thing for local residents to do is to be prepared.

“Preparedness is an everyday thing,” MacPherson said. “People need to be thinking about preparedness in their everyday living.”


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