Saturday, October 31, 2015

Earthquake preparedness begins at home: Freddie Rodriguez

Robin Purcell makes his way to his daughter's apartment on Plummer Street in Northridge to recover some of her possessions. The Northridge quake hit at 4:31 the morning of Jan. 17, 1994, a powerful jolt that flattened buildings, destroyed homes, damaged freeways, ignited fires and disrupted water and power. (Los Angeles Daily News File Photo) 
By Freddie Rodriguez

The Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management hearing on “California Earthquakes, Surviving the Mega-quake,” examined California’s readiness to survive and recover from an earthquake. The committee found that our state and local agencies have undertaken a robust, proactive and cooperative approach to prepare for earthquakes.

Experts have stated, “The earthquake is inevitable. The only question is when.” A 7.5 or greater earthquake in the Los Angeles area is estimated to kill 2,000 people, injure 50,000 and cause another half-million to be displaced or homeless.

Experts also estimate there is a 99 percent chance that California will suffer a 6.7 or larger magnitude earthquake in the next 30 years. A 6.7 earthquake is similar in size to the 1994 Northridge disaster that killed 57 people, injured more than 5,000 and caused property damage of more than $20 billion.

During the hearing government agencies stated, “We are more prepared today than we were yesterday, and we will be better prepared tomorrow than we are today.” I agree that more is being done to prepare us for disaster.

In 2014 the city of Los Angeles released a study, “Resilience by Design,” that set forth a plan to address the city’s earthquake vulnerabilities, including building retrofits and steps to secure water supply and communications infrastructure. I commend cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco that are proactively taking steps to increase the safety of their citizens and the survivability of their communities. Effective planning will facilitate recovery efforts and save lives.

We must understand however, that a mega-quake could create a total collapse on the scale of Hurricane Katrina. The first three to seven days will be complete chaos, including fires, building collapses, utility outages, and overwhelmed first responders and hospitals.

When this happens many will ask, “Where is government and why aren’t they doing more?” The answer unfortunately is that government cannot provide an immediate fix to an overwhelming disaster. While aid and recovery will take place, the sheer magnitude of the problem will require time to address.

So what can you do to prepare? Experts recommend that you prepare to be self-sufficient for at least seven days. This requires advance planning and preparation. I suggest the following:

1. Create disaster kits. Include items such as nonperishable foods, a gallon of water per person per day, first aid, radios, flashlights, spare batteries, medications,and supplies for babies, the disabled or the elderly. Kits can be purchased or you can make your own by searching online.

2. Learn how to shut off utilities such as gas and water. If you rent, ask your landlord how to do this.

3. Create a family disaster plan. Think about how your family will get emergency alerts and warnings. Plan how your family will get to safe locations or get in touch if your cellphone, Internet or landline isn’t working.

4. Be a volunteer. Most cities have established Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs). Volunteer and be trained and ready to be part of the response following a disaster. Training will help you and your community to survive.

5. Inspect your residence or business and retrofit structures that are at risk. There are programs and agencies that will help you. Experts have said, “Earthquakes don’t kill people, buildings do.” Don’t let your building kill you during an earthquake.

When disaster strikes, we will need to rely on one another to get through it. I believe in the resiliency of California and the strength of its residents. An earthquake may be inevitable, but with the right preparation we can minimize the damage.

Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez, D-Chino, represents the 52nd District.
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