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All should prepare for the big quake that may strike
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The recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile are stark reminders of the overwhelming power of the earth that we usually see as being rock solid and stable. The earth is far from stable, and in fact, earthquakes are happening multiple times daily in California. Most are so small that you cannot feel them, and in some areas, like the Mammoth Lakes region, quakes can number in the hundreds as they did in the early 1980s. There are at least several earthquakes every single day in California, and while they are often in remote areas or otherwise too small to feel, we can count on a significantly large one at anytime in the future. It is not a question of "if" we will encounter a destructive earthquake, but the question is "when." And with what we have seen over the course of history, one or more big ones will strike a large population center in this state - perhaps in the relatively near future.

The building, road and general infrastructure construction standards in California are higher than in Third World countries, but as we have seen in the past, these standards cannot guard against failures of bridges, buildings and overpasses. In fact, the larger temblors of the last 35 years have killed people, destroyed bridges, roads and buildings without regard to how earthquake "proof" they were intended to be. And while there have not been "that many" deaths from these quakes, there have been major, long-term power outages, streets and highways have had to be closed, phone systems were jammed and basic supplies ran short in affected areas.

When a large earthquake strikes northern or central California, you can still expect infrastructure damage, which is something about which not much can be done. You can, however, prepare for some of the other problems. Water and food are two of the most basic needs that you must plan for. The water sources, like our faucets, which are what we normally depend on, may not deliver if the supply lines or pumps are damaged. Be assured that stores will sell out very quickly if there is a water shortage for whatever reason. It is also important to learn about the "shelf life" of stored water and how to keep it safe for drinking. To give you an idea, water from public supply systems is generally good for six months if stored in a cool, dark place. Bottled water may last one year. In any event, stored water needs to be "turned over" at six-month intervals, and you should plan to have at least 1.5 gallons per day for each person in the household.

Food is a different matter. Many foods can be stored for long periods of time and the point is to plan to have basic food items that will cover at least a one-week period. If infants or children are part of the family, then planning is a more complex.

Everyone needs to keep in mind that in a major disaster situation, most people will be on their own for the first 48 hours, so we all have to plan accordingly. Take Ceres, for example. There are some 43,000 people living here with less than a total of 90 public safety personnel serving the community. Even with federal assistance, volunteers, the Red Cross and similar organizations, it is obvious that only those people who have life-threatening situations or injuries will be attended to in the first 48 critical hours. There are simply not enough resources to help everyone.

Because of article space limitations, I have not attempted to cover all the recommended preparations for earthquakes and other disasters. This is something that you can (and should) do by visiting appropriate websites like and An often overlooked step that I recommend you act on without delay, however, is to have a communications plan for members of your family. This is so they will know what to do in case they become separated during an earthquake or other disaster, and to have a plan for reuniting. The American Red Cross recommends that an out-of-state relative or friend serves as the "family contact." After a disaster, it is often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address, and phone number of that contact person.

Most people have good intentions to be prepared, but few actually take the steps necessary to get ready for disasters that loom in the future. The earthquake disasters of the recent past should be our wake-up call to action. By getting ready now you may well spare yourselves some unnecessary or even life-threatening difficulties.