What will you do when the earth starts shaking? We all remember (or have heard tales about) the 1994 Northridge quake and how it tested the emergency response mettle of our city.
(At right, California Conservation Corps workers dismantle an unstable chimney in Santa Clarita)
One thing we did learn from the experience was the importance of preparedness, which is why schools, businesses, medical offices and other locations in the city will stop what they’re doing Thursday morning at 10:21 a.m. to “Stop, Drop and Hold On,” part of the annual California ShakeOut drill.
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Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste will be on the air at KHTS to remind people of the importance of being prepared.
Theoretically, she’ll be safely esconced under her desk at City Hall with the phone.
“It’s important (to do the Shakeout) because it’s a way to practice how to react quickly in an earthquake,” said Donna Nuzzi, the City’s Emergency Services Supervisor. “Because injuries that occur typically in an earthquake, especially something significant in magnitude, it’s when things drop on you or fall on you, so by doing Drop, Cover and Hold On, we’re protecting ourselves by going under something sturdy and getting away from potential danger.
“It’s practicing that behavior and reinforcing it – that’s why we’re doing this as an entire state,” she concluded.
This event is one of the largest emergency preparedness drills in United States history and is organized to inspire Southern Californians to be prepared for a natural disaster. The concept behind the Drop, Cover and Hold On routine is that during an earthquake, one should DROP to the floor, COVER under a steady desk or table and HOLD ON to it firmly. The drill will last for one minute
Along with the physical scurrying for cover that will go on at 10:21, various locations will also test their emergency communication systems both internally and with the city’s Emergency Operations Center.
And a new aspect of preparedness added for this year’s event is “Secure Your Space” and “Secure Your Stuff” (the latter being of interest to me as my most vivid memory of 1994 is a heavy antique glass lamp landing on my pillow).
Because of the unpredictability of earthquakes and exactly how each one will behave – which direction will the shaking go, what will fly off the walls – it’s important to secure your home and advocate for strengthening of the other places you inhabit, whether its an office or school or other building. It’s also important to think about what will fall on you if the earth begins to move.
Retrofitting buildings to withstand earthquakes is something that cities across the state and the nation are trying to accomplish by changing building codes. Mobile homes, a large number of which were adversely affected in the last local quake, also have a set of safety standards that it is important to apply.
Securing your stuff, or the objects in your areas (many of them decorative, until they become airborne weapons of mass destruction) is something each person can do. Look around you, do you sit next to a file cabinet that holds an older model TV set? Think of what might happen if that tipped over while you were sitting at the desk. Furniture that is not secured to the walls can tip over and trap you. Water heaters should be strapped to wall studs and it might be time to think about replacing those old, heavy fixtures or appliances that could hurt someone if a quake happens.
Good information on security place and possessions is available at www.daretoprepare.org. The website for the Great California shakeout is www.shakeout.org. For more information on earthquake preparedness and the ShakeOut Drill, please contact Nuzzi at 661-250-3721 or visit the City’s website, santa-clarita.com.