By Charly SHELTON
If an earthquake hit right now, where would you go? Under a doorway? In the bathtub? Under a table? What could fall on you? And after it’s over, do you have enough resources to last a week while utilities are restored? Who do you call if the L.A. phone lines are down? How do you shut off the gas valve inlet at home? Living in earthquake country, these are questions Californians need to be conscious of. And every once-in-a-while, an earthquake drill is needed to remind folks of the importance of being prepared.
Next Thursday, Oct. 20, is the Great ShakeOut. This annual event asks people around the world to participate all at once in an earthquake drill and to think about earthquake preparedness.
“We’re not going to shake California or the rest of the world, we hope, but what we do ask is that everyone stops where they are, think about if an earthquake would happen right now, where is your safe place? And then practice drop, cover and hold on,” said Margaret Vinci, manager, Office of Earthquake Programs at Caltech, and regional coodinator for Earthquake Country Alliance. “And the reason we want them to actually practice it is so that their body builds a muscle memory of doing that exercise so when the earth shakes, you automatically go to that safe place before you have time to think about it.”
The Great ShakeOut is scheduled for 10:20 a.m. When the clock strikes at that moment, people around the state and around the world will behave as though the shaking started. In that situation, practice safe behaviors. Don’t stand under a doorway because of the danger of being hit by flying debris. Don’t get in the bathtub; it’s an earthquake, not a tornado. The safest place to be is underneath something sturdy, like a table or desk.
“You drop to the ground and fall underneath something that’s going to protect you from falling objects. Hang on to whatever you’re under because it will walk away from you, and wait for the shaking to stop,” Vinci said. “So actually practice as if you don’t do anything else and think about your disaster preparedness plan. Do you have enough water stored? That’s a gallon per person, per day for at least seven to 10 days, if not three to four weeks or longer.”
Last year, 10.5 million residents took part in the Great ShakeOut in California alone, and over 38 million people took part worldwide, in every U.S. state and in countries around the world.
“It’s important for everybody; it doesn’t matter where you live. Even more so for other places, because if you live in California, we’re earthquake country. We have 30 quakes a day. Most are [magnitude] ones and two’s, so you don’t feel them,” Vinci said. “People tend to be complacent. But if you live out of California, you’re not used to earthquakes, and you still need to be prepared. Look at the earthquake in Virginia. They had earthquakes in Oklahoma. They are not prepared for them. So a [magnitude] 5.1 earthquake can do damage because they don’t build their infrastructure to support it because they’re not expecting it.”
For more information on the Great ShakeOut, visit ShakeOut.org and for information on how to get your home earthquake ready, visit EarthquakeCountry.org.