In early September, the California governor’s Office of Emergency Service officials released a statement that there was a “swarm of seismic activity at the Salton Sea,” and this prompted Southern Californians to check their safety kits and food and water supplies, to bolt bookshelves to walls, and to establish escape routes. As residents prepare for the “Big One,” they should be aware of the history of earthquakes in California and of preparations needed before and after an earthquake.
As Southern California is located near the San Andreas Fault, which is a continental transform fault that extends approximately 800 miles through California between the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate, there are always earthquake scares that are usually not taken seriously. Despite the possibilities of earthquakes in the past, it was hard to deny the possibility that a large one could occur.
The latest major earthquake in California had a magnitude of 6.7 as residents were awakened by the strong shaking of the Northridge earthquake on January 17, 1994. This earthquake alone caused approximately $20 billion in damage and $49 billion in economic loss. However, seismologists stated that a major earthquake with a magnitude of 7 or higher was long overdue for the San Andreas Fault, as a large earthquake is generally supposed to occur every 150 to 200 years.
In light of the recent Salton Sea tremors, the LA Times reported that San Bernardino, a city in California that is directly on top of the San Andreas Fault, took precautionary steps by closing down City Hall, as the seven-story structure was at a high risk of suffering great damage if an earthquake were to occur.
“We haven’t had an alert like this,” said Mark Scott, San Bernardino’s city manager. “We’re not trying to suggest that the alert is an impending catastrophe. We’re just trying to use an abundance of caution. We care about the safety of the public and our employees.”
When an earthquake hits, Californians know this drill well: Drop, cover, and hold on. Specifically, drop to the floor, find a shelter of some sort, such as a table, and hold on to it. It is best to be under a strong surface when the ground begins to shake. Running out of a building to find “safety” is, ironically, very dangerous as bricks and lamp posts outside can fall. If you can’t get under a table, it is best to find an area away from windows and items that are at risk of falling, such as bookshelves and dishes.
After an earthquake occurs, check yourself and others for injuries, and always keep a first aid kit with you. Except aftershocks to occur, and stay away from beaches as tsunamis commonly occur after the ground stops shaking. Keep in mind that there will be extensive damage that will cost millions to repair. An option that homeowners have is earthquake insurance, which will provide funds for repairs quickly. In the event that an earthquake occurs, prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.