The giant has awakened.
The 7.8-magnitude earthquake explodes on the San Andreas under the Salton Sea and races along the fault toward Palm Springs. Wave after wave of violent shaking fans out, enveloping San Diego, Oceanside, San Bernardino and Victorville within a minute. Anaheim and Barstow are next.
Seconds later, the disaster strikes Pomona.
The Southern California Earthquake Center’s earthquake simulation is simple, straightforward and chilling. When the Big One hits – and it’s a matter of when, not if – residents from San Diego to Ventura and Palm Springs to Bakersfield will encounter the disaster of their lifetime, especially if the San Andreas triggers quakes on other significant faults that run through Southern California.
Debbi McFall, Cal Poly Pomona’s emergency services coordinator, says the university’s first responders are trained and prepared, but every member of the campus community needs to know what to do in an earthquake.
Drop, cover and hold on.
These simple instructions could spell the difference between life and death, because the people at the greatest risk during an earthquake are those inside buildings who scramble to flee. They risk being injured by falling objects, tumbling down stairs, getting trampled at exits or being struck by shattered glass.
“Stay put long enough to think things through,” McFall says. “Animals instinctively know what to do: They hide. They don’t run.”
For third consecutive year, the university community will have an opportunity to practice dropping, covering and holding on during the Great California ShakeOut on Thursday, Oct. 21. At precisely 10:21 a.m., building marshals, floor captains and other emergency responders around campus will instruct people to drop, cover and hold on for one minute. Faculty and students who are in class and unable to take cover under a desk should drop and stay low while protecting their heads. The ShakeOut event is designed to train and remind people to respond instinctively and to identify vulnerabilities in the emergency response system. Nearly 7 million people participated in the statewide drill last year.
McFall encourages people who work in offices to check the space under their desks to make sure there is adequate room to take cover. She also encourages everyone to take an inventory of items around them that could fall during an earthquake. Her office in the University Police headquarters is filled with objects that appear vulnerable to shaking, but all have been secured – even the glasses on the shelf above her computer.
Preparing for a disaster is essential, McFall says, but many people – especially longtime Southern Californians who should know better – are in denial. “It’s not really going to be that bad, they tell themselves. They don’t take the simple steps needed to not only survive an earthquake, but to help others once the shaking stops.”
Everyone should have a disaster kit that contains the essentials: gloves, goggles, dust masks, a radio and flashlight, water and basic tools. McFall says she got everything she needed, even the storage bag, for less than $25 at a discount store.
“It’s one of the best investments you can make,” she says.
A test of Cal Poly Pomona’s Safety Alert System will take place at 10:21 a.m. as well. Expect a brief test message on your cell, home and office phones, as well as emails or other communication devices. The campus community is urged to notify those who share your home number, particularly if their first language is not English.
The university tests the Safety Alert System quarterly ensure it is securely in place, as well as to familiarize the campus community with this important emergency communication vehicle. It will be used only for emergency communication purposes and never for routine communications.
Two of the many disaster-preparedness events that are scheduled on campus this month are a multi-casualty exercise and an earthquake preparedness education seminar. The multi-casualty exercise will be staged Wednesday, Oct. 20 to test emergency medical services. Staff from Student Health Services and Counseling and Psychological Services will participate, as will numerous volunteers who will play the role of disaster victims.
On Thursday, Oct. 21, the earthquake preparedness seminar, presented by the geology department, will highlight how to better identify earthquake hazards, as well as measures to take before, during and after a damaging event. The seminar will take place at noon in the Bronco Student Center.
The following short film by MySafeLA.org explains what to do during an earthquake — Drop, cover and hold on.