Katrina Package: Earthquake

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Hurricane Katrina was one of the most devastating natural disasters to occur, and one that we are still recuperating from. According to weather.com, it was the costliest hurricane to hit the U.S. and the third deadliest, with an estimated 1,833 deaths.

Dr. David Bowman, chairman of geological science at CSUF explained that unlike Hurricane Katrina, the state of California has been preparing for an earthquake for a long time.

“It’s a culture of preparedness. People in California understand that there is an earthquake hazard,” he said.

The San Andreas Fault, the largest fault in California, can easily cause an earthquake of a magnitude of 7.8 or 8, Bowman said.

“We look at the San Andreas Fault the same way [as Hurricane Katrina] because it could have the same effect,” Bowman said.

The San Andreas Fault cuts all the major freeways that enter the Los Angeles area.“It crosses our rail lines and gas pipelines,” Bowman said. “Everything you need to sustain a society (electricity and water) comes to L.A. from the other side of the San Andreas Fault.”

Bowman explained that the reason we focus on the San Andreas Fault is because the fault hasn’t had an earthquake since 1857.  Earthquakes on the San Andreas Fault typically happen on average every 130 years.

“We should have had an earthquake already but we haven’t,” Bowman said. “All that we know is that the San Andreas Fault is ‘locked and loaded’.”

Meaning it has enough stress applied to it.

A portion of the San Andreas Fault near the Mexican border, right around San Bernardino, is a greater hazard, Bowman said.

“We base that ‘ShakeOut’ scenario around that earthquake,” Bowman said.

The ShakeOut is the largest earthquake drill in the U.S. with a total of 6.9 million participants. It occurs every year on the third Thursday of October. If that earthquake were to happen, it would devastate Orange County and L.A., Bowman said. It would sever many of our lifelines and produce widespread damage, Bowman added.

Maria Camacho, a 22-year-old liberal studies major said she wouldn’t be prepared for an earthquake of that magnitude. “People are conscious about earthquakes, especially minor ones, but I don’t think a lot of people would be prepared,” Camacho said.

Mayte Ortiz, a 23-year-old communicative disorders major, said that even though she knows what to do during an earthquake and is aware of supplies you’re supposed to have at home, she wouldn’t be prepared. “I’m traumatized by earthquakes,” Ortiz said.

If an earthquake were to occur, Bowman advises to stay where you are and go under something sturdy that can hide the head from debris. One common mistake that people make is to go outside.  If you go outside, debris from buildings can fall off and be deadly, Bowman said.

The American Red Cross website has an earthquake safety checklist that supplies information on how to prepare for an earthquake and what to do both during and after an earthquake.  During an earthquake one should drop, cover and hold on. If in bed, one should stay there, curl up and hold on while protecting the head with a pillow. If outside when the shaking starts, it’s advised to find a clear spot; away from buildings, power lines, trees and streetlights and drop to the ground.

“Buildings are designed to be life safe,” Bowman said. “The greatest hazard is not the building collapsing but the objects inside the room.”

For more information on earthquake safety and preparedness visit: http://www.redcross.org/

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