Preparing for Natural Disaster

Due to the natural disasters that have occurred in China, Japan, Thailand, New Orleans, Haiti and New Zealand, experts believe we should prepare ourselves for a disaster on our shores.

In the case of a natural disaster like the one in Japan, we should not take being prepared lightly. The magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan are wake-up calls not to forget and to respect the unpredictable wrath of Mother Nature.

Fullerton is so close to the San Andreas Fault. Larry Collins, captain of the Los Angeles Fire Department in the Special Operations Bureau, wrote in his article “The ShakeOut San Andreas Earthquake Scenario” about the overdue earthquake.

“Nowhere is the danger of impending catastrophe more palpable than in Southern California,” said Collins, “where the southern-most segment of the San Andreas Fault has gone more than 300 years on average, so it’s long overdue for a very large quake.”

From 1980-2011, according to the Southern California Earthquake Data Center, there have been 30 earthquakes with a magnitude 4.5 and larger. In the last 10 years there have been 18 earthquakes with a magnitude 4.5 and larger.

In 1906, the San Francisco earthquake was a magnitude 8.3 and killed 700 people. It was the post-quake fire that swept through the city that caused most of the damage.

Another earthquake in California that caused a lot of damage was the 1989 Loma Prieta 7.0 quake, where 62 people were killed, 3,757 were injured and 12,053 were displaced, according to the website Citizendia.org. During the Loma Prieta earthquake, extensive liquefaction occurred along the entire shoreline of the Monterey Bay, as well as in San Francisco’s Marina District and along the bay shore in Oakland.

In 1994, Nothridge experienced a magnitude 6.8 earthquake that killed 60 people, according to the Pacific Disaster Center. This quake injured more than 7,000 people and left 20,000 homeless. Damages were estimated to be in the range of $20 billion.

“The only fear I have about being in the middle of an earthquake is wondering about the damage that a post-quake will cause. I would hate to think about what the government would do if thousands of people were misplaced from their homes. I have extra water and food in my garage and I keep an earthquake kit with a pair of shoes under my bed,” said Steve Robbins, 34, a business major.

Sue Fisher, the Emergency Preparedness coordinator, is focusing on promoting dialogue among faculty and students about the importance of knowing what you should do, or have an option of doing, in such situations as a natural disaster, technological disaster or a violent act on campus. She has organized a drill called “Shelter-in-Place” for the month of April.

“The reason I’ve organized this is that it is very timely and it shows that with the combination of a natural disaster with a technological disaster, we need to be prepared in a variety of ways. That is why we did The Great ShakeOut last October and that is why we did the Shelter-in-Place,” said Fisher.

On the Campus Emergency Preparedness website, a variety of events could require you to shelter-in-place:

1)    Chemical accident
2)    Severe weather conditions
3)    Dangerous local situation
4)    Armed person on campus

The drill Tuesday, April 12, began mid-afternoon. It was an announcement that a shelter-in-place exercise started. Fisher explained that people were directed to the emergency preparedness website to have everyone go over what shelter-in-place means, when to employ it and when running or fighting back are better options for violent situations, for example.

“I think particularly for students it is quite terrifying to experience a violent act on campus. The most important thing to do is to know how to protect yourself,” Fisher said.

Fisher said people would get the option of taking the next 15 minutes to review and discuss the material. After those 15 minutes a voice announcement would end the drill.

In case of an earthquake with a high magnitude that affects our power for more than two weeks and disconnects our communication lines – for example, Internet, phone, everything that requires generation of power – students should go through their Student Portal and update their emergency information so they may receive SMS texts for notifications, as directed on the campus website at Prepare.Fullerton.edu.

The USGS shakeout earthquake scenario designed by Theo Alexopoulous, an Art Center College of Design alumnus, explains on the website the steps on how to be prepared:

1)    Have a fire extinguisher.
2)    Have a first-aid kit.
3)    Make sure there is enough water for each person in the household to have at least one gallon of water a day for three days.
4)    Have an emergency plan (where to meet the family after the earthquake).
5)    Make sure to have a phone number of a person out of town to let know that you are OK.
6)    Homeowners should bolt down the house to its foundation.
7)    Secure personal possessions against earthquake damage.
8)    Be sure the company you work for has an emergency plan for a major earthquake.

Ryan Alhadeff, 23, a business major, feels confident in his earthquake preparedness.

“As strong as America is, I feel like relief would be slow in a time of disaster and that we need to be aware that a natural disaster of any kind could happen at any moment. The key is to stay alert and not panic,” said Alhadeff.

Jack Bage, who is in charge of the building codes here on campus, explained that some common dangers would be books falling and broken glass. The CSU has a seismic review board and they use it to view seismic safety of all the buildings, he said.

“We have some of the best and brightest engineers,” said Bage. “I believe that we have achieved a high standard of life safety in our buildings.”

About Kamy West