Practice for the “Big One”

Students in all five campuses of the Vaughn schools in Pacoima — from kindergarten to Grade 12 — will be doing a version of “drop, cover and hold” in their classrooms today, Oct.19. Some sites will even conduct large scale drills involving teachers, staff and parents to act as victims and prepare for an emergency.

Other schools, as well as government and private offices, will be doing the same as people take part in the annual Great California ShakeOut, the yearly earthquake preparedness drill to instruct people on how to stay safe when the ground shakes.

Last year more than 10.6 million Californians participated, and more than 55 million people worldwide took part.

“At Vaughn Next Century Learning Center, we have pledged to take part in this drill as well, so that we are better prepared for an emergency situation. Our school community will be enacting scenarios, so that our students, staff rescue teams and parents will get hands-on practice in the event of an earthquake,” said Roxane Romero, director of operations for Vaughn Next Century Learning Center.

“By doing this, it allows our school community the opportunity to evaluate how well we are prepared. It is a valuable drill that leads to keeping many people safe, as well as reassuring staff, students and parents that we do have a plan in place that will help us recover from an emergency situation,” she said.

Earthquake risk is real. The California Geological Survey has mapped thousands of faults statewide and considers more than 500 of them to be active and dangerous.

The latest Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast projects “multi-fault ruptures”—simultaneous ruptures of multiple faults, a phenomenon that releases more energy and can create more powerful shaking.

“California is earthquake country,” said Glenn Pomeroy, CEO of the California Earthquake Authority. “We need to ask ourselves whether we’re prepared to survive and recover when the next damaging earthquake strikes — and if we aren’t, we need to take action now to change that.”

The recent devastating earthquakes in Mexico are a reminder of the potential destruction from these natural phenomena. And the Los Angeles region — right in the middle of “earthquake country” — is poised for a “big one,” according to a University of California Davis professor.

John Rundle is part of a team of scientists that work on the EPS or “earthquake potential score,” a gauge for assessing the likelihood of a destructive temblor.

According to Rundle’s research, the Los Angeles region has surpassed the level assigned to the 6.7 magnitude Northridge Earthquake of 1994. The region’s current EPS level is 80.3 percent. Before the Northridge earthquake, it was 77.8 percent.

The Northridge Earthquake — which occurred January 17, 1994 — is the last large-magnitude earthquake in the Los Angeles region. It killed dozens, injured more than 8,000 people and disrupted life in Los Angeles and the surrounding counties for months.

Rundle’s research indicates that, on average, a large earthquake takes place every 1,000 or so 3 and 4 magnitude shakes. So, after the Northridge earthquake, they started counting all those minor ones.

He notes that “it could be several years or more before you have that magnitude 6.0 earthquake but that’s what the level is now.”

Still, he warns that “If you’re going to live you need to be prepared. You need to have 72 hours of food and water at hand. You need to do a drill like the ShakeOut to practice what to do in an emergency.”

It’s the same recommendation by Pomeroy.

“Taking the proper actions during an earthquake can save lives and reduce the risk of injury,” he said. “ShakeOut is a perfect opportunity to practice — and to review — other aspects of emergency plans and financial preparations to ensure you’re ready for the unexpected.”

“Every disaster is local, and individuals need to take personal control of their own preparedness, as well as help within their workplace and community,” said Dr. Kenneth Hudnut, Science Advisor for Risk Reduction at the United States Geological Survey. “Recent fires, storms and earthquakes all remind us how important it is to be self-reliant and help others when disaster strikes. Because it’s not ‘if,’ it’s ‘when.’”

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