The 7.1 magnitude earthquake and its strong fore- and aftershocks centered near Ridgecrest, but felt throughout our own county and beyond, serve as a reminder of how unpredictable earthquakes can be and the importance of disaster preparedness.
San Diego County, like most of California, sits on a network of active earthquake faults. The Rose Canyon Fault, which runs under La Jolla and downtown San Diego, is capable of producing up to magnitude 7.3 earthquakes if the offshore segments rupture and a 7.4 if the southern onshore segment also ruptures, according to an analysis led by Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego. These earthquakes would cause significant damage.
As County Disaster Service Workers, we have an extra obligation after an earthquake: to report to our supervisors and assist those in need as directed. The only way to survive and reduce your chances for injury if a significant earthquake rattles the region, is to get prepared now.
Before an earthquake, help your family get prepared by holding your own drill at home. Every member of your family should know what to do during an earthquake: Drop, Cover, and Hold On. Practice your plan at least once a year, but ideally more often and in different rooms of the house so that the reaction becomes automatic. A quick, practiced response can help in the stressful and frightening moments after a quake strikes.
Check your home for hazards, such as items that could topple over onto someone from a high shelf or above. The goal is to adhere breakables with wax or putty or rearrange them on a lower shelf, and to secure tall bookcases, televisions, wall art, or hanging mirrors with straps or special hanging hardware to prevent them from falling. All of these securing materials can be found at most home improvement stores.
Have a plan for emergencies and go over it with your family. A template is available at ReadySanDiego.org.
Have emergency provisions such as water, non-perishable food, first aid items, flashlights, batteries, prescribed medications, cash, and an emergency radio on hand. A list is also available on the ReadySanDiego.org site as well as other earthquake safety tips.
Register your cellphones with AlertSanDiego, the County’s mass notification system to receive emergency information and download the SDEmergency mobile app or visit SDCountyEmergency.com for emergency information.
During an earthquake, the most important thing to do it to protect your head from items that might fall in the shaking. Drop, Cover and Hold On under a sturdy table or desk. If you are not near a table or desk, drop to the ground and move away from any hanging fixtures, windows, glass, or furniture that could topple over, and sit up against an interior wall, while covering your head. For more tips, check out this helpful list provided by Earthquake Country Alliance.
After an earthquake, it is important to be ready to seek cover again in the event of an aftershock. Check yourself and others for injuries. Assuming there are none, walk around the home or building and make sure there are no fires, which can sometimes ignite after an earthquake from ruptured gas lines. While walking around, be sure to sniff for gas as well. If the odor of gas is detected, the main gas line must be turned off. Turn the gas line off only if there is a leak or damage to the line because once it is off, utility crews must turn it back on. If possible, check on neighbors.
Practicing crawling under a desk at home or work may seem a little silly at first, but it truly is important that County employees practice what they would do if an earthquake happened.
Below are some tips for earthquake preparedness whether at work or home.
Drop and take cover immediately under a desk or sturdy table. Hold onto the leg of the table with one arm to make sure it stays over you and use your other arm to protect your head.
Slide down along an interior wall and cover your head with your arms, if a desk or table is not available.
Stay in a safe place until the shaking stops.
If outside in a clear area, sit down and cover your head until the shaking is over.
If in your car or a County vehicle, pull over in a clear area and wait.
After the shaking is done, check yourself and check on your family or colleagues.
If at work and in an office which serves members of the public, also check on customers.
If a building is deemed unsafe, employees may be asked to evacuate.
There is potential for hazards within your home or work facility such as fires, broken glass, and gas leaks or flooding. Check for these hazards.
Avoid walking around or running indoors or outdoors. The shaking may cause items to fall on you or could cause you to fall.
Avoid windows, mirrors, framed posters or pictures and other glass items which could shatter and hurt you.
Avoid tall and heavy furniture items that might topple onto you.
Avoid standing under overhead light fixtures or other items that may fall.
Avoid getting on an elevator.
If you are outside when shaking occurs, avoid buildings and windows in case pieces break off.
If outside, avoid trees and overhead utility lines because they could fall.
If outside, avoid bridges if possible.
The Great ShakeOut earthquake drill is a great opportunity to hold a drill at home and work. This year, the drill will be held at 10:17 a.m. on Oct. 17. To register to ShakeOut (even if it’s not at the designated time and day), visit ShakeOut.org, and to learn more about preparedness, visit ReadySanDiego.org.