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Locals gear up for ‘Great California Shakeout’

Annual event aims to prepare us for the Big One

Posted: September 23, 2008 8:02 p.m.
Updated: November 25, 2008 5:00 a.m.

A trio of La Mesa Junior High students watch as Los Angeles County Fire Department Swift Water Rescue team members practice a water rescue at the upper Castaic Lake last year.

Lee Ryan will drop to the floor right there in the bread aisle of Ralph’s if it means bringing attention to earthquake preparedness.

Ryan, who was shopping at the store at McBean Parkway at Decoro Drive Tuesday, said he would take part in the statewide promotion on Nov. 13.

“I’d probably go along with it, if it’s part of a promotion. Why not?” he said.

Local emergency officials gearing up for the “Great California Shakeout” believe Santa Clarita residents must prepare to be prepared for the “Big One.”

“The most important thing to remember about emergencies is not to be complacent,” said Adele MacPherson, emergency manager for the city of Santa Clarita.

MacPherson and others assigned by various local agencies are preparing specifically for what is expected to be the largest earthquake preparedness drill in California history.

The exercise — dubbed Golden Guardian ‘08 — is expected to test the ability of emergency responders to deal with a magnitude-7.8 earthquake on the San Andreas Fault. The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the California Office of Homeland Security are organizing the event.

At precisely 10 a.m. Nov. 13, everyone in California —kids at school, workers working, shoppers shopping, reporters interviewing — are expected to drop to the floor, seek cover and hold that position.

“We want to get people talking about earthquakes and preparedness,” said Donna Nuzzi, emergency services supervisor for Santa Clarita.

“Wherever you are, if you’re shopping at the grocery store and you have a cart, we want people to participate.  All the schools will be participating,” Nuzzi said.

Kimberly Todd, a first grade teacher at Meadows Elementary School, said students will be at recess on that day, at that time.

“I would probably go outside, helping the yard supervisors with it,” Todd said, adding that she’s the school’s search-and-rescue appointee.

Valencia High School senior Sean Buckley said he would drop to the floor and get under his desk even if his peers laughed it off.

“When I’m the only human being standing, I’d still be alive,” he said.

Before the big shakeout happens, local, state and federal emergency heads are getting ready.

On Tuesday, Shakeout participants put another weapon in their arsenal when their state and federal counterparts emerged from a meeting in Sacramento with an updated plan.

Emergency first responders with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Region 9, released a new comprehensive all-hazards Concept of Operations Plan Tuesday, as well as a San Francisco Bay Area Catastrophic Earthquake Plan.

The operations plan spells out the “rules of engagement” federal and state partners are expected to follow in response to a wide range of catastrophic events in California.

The Bay Area plan, based on the 1906 Bay Area earthquake and fires, calls for federal and state agencies to follow a set support strategy.

“The release of these documents today concludes over a year of intense work by state, local, private sector and federal agencies working together to prepare California for all types of disasters,” said Nancy Ward, FEMA regional administrator.

No local representatives attended the high-level strategy discussions in Sacramento but the plans impact them directly since representatives at all levels, from a variety of organizations, are expected to act and interact as a well-informed team in the event of a major disaster.

A series of interagency work groups came together in Sacramento Tuesday to examine potential needs that might exist following a major earthquake and developed an organized and systematic means to allocate resources and services as needed.

In May, a scenario presented in a report released by the U.S. Geological Survey detailed the effects of a magnitude 7.8 earthquake.

There is a 67 percent chance that a magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquake will hit the greater Los Angeles area sometime in the next 30 years, according to the geological survey group.

A 7.8 quake along the San Andreas fault would cause a huge loss of life and massive damage to infrastructure, including critical transportation, power, and water systems, according to the report.


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