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Our View: Get prepared for the next big one

Posted: April 8, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 8, 2011 1:55 a.m.

City employee Michael Marks, left, hands out water and instructions to Newhall resident Lupe Munguia in the days following the Jan. 17, 1994, Northridge Earthquake. Scientists in 2008 forecast a 99-percent chance of an equally large quake hitting Southern California.

 

For weeks, we’ve watched the slow-motion horror story unfold detailing Japan’s 9.0-magnitude earthquake, subsequent tsunami and nuclear-power-plant disaster.

Now we find ourselves in April, which is — fittingly enough — National Earthquake Preparedness Month.

As we go about our busy daily lives, it’s easy to say “I’ll do it later” to the long list of things we know we ought to do, but never quite get around to. Most likely on your list is preparing yourself and your family for a local earthquake or other natural disaster — or updating your preparation.

This is the time to stop and say, “I’ll do it now.”

If Japan’s disaster last month isn’t enough to prompt action, consider that scientists in 2008 forecast a 99-percent chance of a 6.7-magnitude earthquake in California within 30 years.

There’s no point living in dread of such an occurrence. But it’s also not very smart to be unprepared for one.

“It’s a threat we live with every day,” said Donna Nuzzi, emergency services supervisor for the city of Santa Clarita. “After witnessing what’s happened in Japan and New Zealand, it’s showed us how important preparedness is.”

You can buy emergency preparedness kits online or in some stores, but it’s easy to put one together yourself, and you can customize it to your own needs. We offer a list of items to consider below, found on the government-sponsored website www.ready.gov.

If you have children in your household, involve them in preparing the family for a possible emergency. You can seize the opportunity to explain the causes of natural disasters, helping dispel some of their fear if one occurs.

And you can help them build confidence and ensure they know what to do — and where supplies are stored — if an earthquake or other disaster strikes.

Nuzzi recommends an emergency preparedness kit for your car, as well as your home, in case disaster strikes while you’re out of the house.

Keep a bag in the trunk with water, food, a poncho, a flashlight, a map, reflectors, a change of clothes, comfortable shoes, a battery-powered radio and a utility knife, she advises.

It’s also a good idea to stash a flashlight and a pair of walking shoes at work, just to be safe.

Along with having adequate supplies in a safe place, residents need to keep earthquakes in mind while going about standard household duties. Don’t place heavy items on high shelves, and bolt bookcases and other heavy furniture to walls to minimize risk of injury.

When the earth does start moving, “People need to remember that it is ‘drop, cover, hold on’ during an earthquake,” Nuzzi said. “If you’re at work, go under your desk and don’t run out the door because people can get hurt by falling objects.”

For residents who really want to get into the disaster-preparedness mode, the city offers Community Emergency Response Training classes, courses that meet once a week for seven weeks.

The classes teach how to handle many aspects of emergency situations and prepare students to be leaders in their neighborhoods if disaster strikes.

The city also has in place two emergency-notification systems — text and telephone — to keep residents up to date on information like road conditions, water potability and other safety information.

These messages can be targeted to specific residents who live close to a particular threat, such as a spreading wildfire.
Don’t delay; take action this month. The last year and a half has seen disastrous earthquakes in Haiti, Iran, New Zealand, Afghanistan, Chile, Mexico and Japan.

California could be next.

 

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