Friday, January 17, 2014

Northridge 20 years later

At 4:31am 20 years ago residents of Southern California were jolted awake by a 6.7 magnitude quake that lasted for 30 seconds. What was soon dubbed the Northridge Earthquake was a reminder for many residents that Southern California is firmly between the cross hairs of the San Andreas Fault.

The ABC coverage above shows what happened: neighborhoods on fire, no electricity, no water, elevated freeway collapse, and a lot of uncertainty. But that was 20 years ago, that couldn't happen now...could it? 

In this article "Buildings Vulnerable 20 years after Northridge Quake" Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is quoted as saying:
"We're as well prepared as any city in America, which is to say we're unprepared...I don't think anybody in America is very well prepared ... There's always going to be an earthquake we can't be prepared for."
And while that isn't the resounding vote of confidence you hope for from the Mayor of a city with more than 12 million people a stone's throw from the San Andreas have to wonder, if the Mayor has this type of attitude, then why are hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent annually to fund Regional Catastrophic Planning Teams ($857,000 in 2011/2012 (see pg 106) and upgraded Emergency Operations Centers ($400,000)?

If you look at my completely unscientific method of earthquake prediction you'll notice that the last major earthquake before Northridge was the Sylmar quake in '71--a 6.6 in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. Sylmar was roughly 20 years before Northridge and today marks the passage of 20 years since, and it feels like disaster amnesia has wholly enveloped Southern much so that the mayor seems to have a "well...what can ya do?" mindset.

Growing a culture of preparedness in a diverse region of 12+ million people is no small feat, but when a significant number of residential structures continue to remain at risk 20 years later, the supply chains and infrastructure that criss-cross the San Andreas remain vulnerable, and preparedness is a foreign concept to a generation of people that weren't alive in '94, it becomes apparent that there is a lot to do and it feels like we're living on borrowed time.

So unless you're an engineer or have deep pockets and can throw money at this, I encourage you to take a few simple steps to help prepare:
  • Buy some MRE's (Meals ready to eat)
  • Get some Water: 1 gallon / day / person (3-5 day supply -- more is better)
  • Flashlights and batteries (candles tend to burn homes down during aftershocks)
  • A hand crank radio for news updates and if needed, a charge of your phone
  • Have some cash, preferably smaller bills (not all ATM's will be knocked out but why take that chance?)
  • Extra Medication / eye glasses 
  • Know where your water and gas meters are and how to turn them off (fires will be a major problem)
  • Create a meeting point with your friends / family so that if you're separated you know where to go and when to be there
There is more you can and should do, but this is a start. Listen to the podcast below for 2 surprising facts about the most common injuries after Northridge and how you can prevent them from happening to you.

Being an alarmist never does anyone any good, but you also want to be ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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