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Preparing for the Big earthquake
Ceres Director of Public Safety Art deWerk - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Last Thursday, millions participated in "The Great California Shakeout" practice drill in recognition of the earthquake threat that we live with in this state. The drill involved practicing what to do during an earthquake: Drop! Cover! Hold on! It acts as a reminder to us of the need to plan ahead for the eventuality of an earthquake in the future.

According to the data, there at two significant earthquakes every decade in California; they do not always happen close enough to populated areas to cause serious injuries or damage, but occasionally they do cause deaths, injuries and property damage. Two examples are the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 and the Northridge earthquake of 1994. Both of these killed numerous people and caused billions of dollars in damage. The Loma Prieta quake killed 63 people throughout Northern California, injured 3,757 and left some 3,000 to 12,000 people homeless. The Northridge quake of 1994 killed a total of 57 people, and there were more than 8,700 injured. Most people living here have heard the repeated statement that California is overdue for the "big one" and that it could happen anytime, but the question is just how prepared are we?

The fact is that California is riddled with earthquake fault lines, and at least a dozen are thought to be ready to generate a life-threatening trembler at any time. California lies in an area where there is much movement of the earth's "plates," which is why we have the High Sierras and so many earthquakes, both big and small. To give you an idea about just how shaky California's ground is, there have been 1,561 earthquakes during the last 12 months. To check this out further, go to‎ on the Internet and be prepared to be shocked when you see just how many earthquakes are happening every single day and how big some of them are. We should be ready.

Earthquake preparedness is essentially the same as it is for any disaster planning for individuals and their families. What to do during an earthquake is one of the points of the Great American Shakeout drill. Some tips I gathered from the website include: stay indoors if you are already there, get under a desk or table, stay out of the kitchen or other places where there are things that can fall onto you from shelves, cupboards, or walls. Windows, appliances and the like should be avoided, as well as elevators, power lines and similar threats. There are so many things to do or not do that all of them cannot be listed here, but awareness and mental preparedness will help greatly as you try to stay safe in a future earthquake.

Earthquakes last from a few seconds to several minutes sometimes. Once you successfully survive the episode, the challenge shifts to dealing with the likelihood that water supplies and power may be cut off. Similarly, medical services may be stressed to the point where all but the most serious of injuries are being attended to, and even then, some people may receive no assistance at all. In planning ahead for a major earthquake, people will do best if they assume that they may be on their own, without any emergency services, for 48 hours or more. Therefore, it is important to have first aid supplies, food, water and a communications plan for your family members in case they are separated at the time an earthquake takes place. The internet has innumerable websites that can help with emergency preparedness planning and what to do during earthquakes and other calamities, both natural and man-made.

Emergency preparedness is perhaps one of the most important concerns that any individual could have; yet, it is one of the last things many people ever think about. Day-to-day challenges, stress and just living during these busy times tend to consume our time and energy. And it is for that reason that programs like the Great American Shakeout exist; to call attention to the threat of earthquakes and urge everyone to plan ahead and be ready for when a big one hits.