22 July 2008

The Great Southern California ShakeOut

Posted by Jessica Ball

Even though I’m sure this has been mentioned in many places, I promised I’d post on it (in case there’s anyone out there who didn’t see the first few iterations).

While I was at the Boston NSTA meeting, I ha d the chance to meet a fellow from the Southern California Earthquake Center, and chat with him a bit about the Center’s work. I was really impressed by their public awareness campaign (which has a slogan of, appropriately, “Shift Happens”, in addition to Dare to Prepare). It often seems to me like the US is poorly prepared even for natural disasters that happen more often than major earthquakes (any number of hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and fires come to mind), but outside of a few areas o f the country, hardly anyone is prepared for earthquakes.

The Great Southern California ShakeOut is a fantastic idea, but it needs to happen in other places than California. The Pacific Northwest, sitting on a subduction zone capable of producing 9+ magnitude earthquakes, is especially at risk, as well as the entire Midwest (which could experience another New Madrid quake) and even the East Coast (where Charleston was once the site of a ~7 magnitude quake). While the recurrence interval for quakes in the eastern US is certainly much longer than elsewhere, major quakes can – and do – happen. And when they do, very few people will be prepared in any way whatsoever. That’s why the ShakeOut is a great opportunity for the entire country to get involved in an earthquake drill. Even if it’s something as simple as securing heavy shelves to the wall (a good idea anyway), mapping out a route to get away from urban centers, putting together an emergency kit, or stocking up on bottled water and canned food, get involved!

Here’s the info from the ShakeOut website:

“The Great Southern California ShakeOut is a week of special events featuring the largest earthquake drill in U.S. history, organized to inspire Southern Californians to get ready for big earthquakes, and to prevent disasters from becoming catastrophes. An Earthquake Drill for the Record Books

“At 10 a.m. on November 13, 2008, millions of southern Californians will “Drop, Cover, and Hold On.” Why? An enormous earthquake is in our future, and the ShakeOut Drill is our chance to practice what to do when it happens. Individuals, families, businesses, schools and organizations will join firefighters, police officers, and other emergency responders (involved in the statewide “Golden Guardian” exercise) in our largest-ever earthquake preparedness activity. Don’t miss out!

“ShakeOut is based on a potential 7.8 magnitude earthquake on the southern San Andreas Fault. This type of earthquake occurs in southern California every 150 years on average, and the last was 151 years ago! Dr. Lucy Jones of the U.S. Geological Survey has led a group of over 200 scientists, engineers, and others to study the likely consequences of this enormous earthquake in great detail.

“In summary, the ShakeOut Scenario estimates this earthquake will cause some 2,000 deaths, 50,000 injuries, $200 billion in damage and other losses, and severe, long-lasting disruption. The report has regional implications and is a dramatic call to action for preparedness, and is available at www.ShakeOut.org.

“The ShakeOut includes these main events:

  • ShakeOut Drill (Nov. 13)
  • International Earthquake Conference (Nov. 12-14: Presented by the City of Los Angeles – iec.lacity.org)
  • Golden Guardian Emergency Response Exercise (Nov. 13-19: Emergency mangers, fire fighters, and other first responders will practice how they will respond to this large earthquake –
  • Los Angeles Earthquake: Get Ready Rally (Nov. 14: designed by Art Center College of Design)
  • Take One More Step (Nov. 14-16: community activities to promote additional preparedness.)”

(“Shift Happens” makes a fantastic bumper sticker, by the way.)