News / USA

Californians Urged to Get Ready for Earthquakes

Red Cross education specialist Lisa Klink stresses the importance of having a disaster kit ready.
Red Cross education specialist Lisa Klink stresses the importance of having a disaster kit ready.

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The earthquake and tsunami in Japan earlier this year served as dramatic reminders that people everywhere should be ready for disasters.  Here in the United States, scientists say California will one day be rocked by a major earthquake.  Local authorities are trying to ensure that everyone is ready.

Children "duck, cover and hold on" in practices that remind all Californians to be ready for an earthquake.  

A 6.7 magnitude quake struck near the Los Angeles suburb of Northridge in 1994, killing 57 people and injuring thousands.

Experts say a much bigger temblor, possibly of magnitude 7.8, is likely to hit near Los Angeles on the southern San Andreas Fault in coming years. It could result in thousands of deaths and billions of dollars in damage.

Northern California could also be struck, as San Francisco was in the disastrous earthquake and fire of 1906.

The American Red Cross sells disaster kits, and everyone should have one, says Red Cross education specialist Lisa Klink.  They should also have a stock of essential supplies for a disaster.

"You really may be stuck on your own for a couple of days and should really be prepared for that," said Klink.  "We advise people to have a least three day's worth of food and water and supplies at home, ideally a week, but at the very least, three days."

Some Californians take the message to heart.  Nicole Perzik, who is walking her dogs in the park, says she's ready.

"I've got water and all kinds of supplies in case something happens, especially when you own pets," said Perzik.  "That's what makes me feel more aware."

California is home to people from all over the world, and part of the challenge is getting out the message that they need to be prepared.  

Some have experienced other disasters, including tornadoes and flooding that recently devastated parts of the American Midwest.   Midwestern transplant Barry Goldenberg says he has experienced those and is ready for earthquakes.

"They don't bother me as much as they do some other people who may be from Los Angeles or from California because maybe I'm used to natural disasters," noted Goldenberg.

California has some of the strictest building codes in the world, but officials worry about schools and say that even in safe buildings, people can be injured.

They need to be prepared, says Mark Benthien of the Southern California Earthquake Center.

"Our real first responders are ourselves and our neighbors," said Benthien.  "The first government responders would be the firefighters and such, and they'll come, but they may not come for quite some time."

The American Red Cross and local fire departments offer preparedness training, and officials there say everyone needs an emergency plan in place in advance of a disaster.

Film producer Stanley Isaacs took a preparedness course and he and his wife were ready for the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

"I was back from location on a movie and I had assembled a vest, because I had a vest that I was wearing on location, and I put flashlight, tools and stuff in there, and the night of the quake, I put it on and I handed her a radio and a flashlight," recalled Isaacs.  "And she felt comforted and never forgot the fact that I had given that to her."

He created and now sells the so-called Grab-N-Go survival vest, complete with emergency supplies, including water, a radio and flashlight.

Scientists say a major quake will rock California.  The only questions are when it will happen and if people are ready.

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