A quick jolt….. a little swaying, and back to normal in 10 seconds. Just a gentle reminder that we live in earthquake country.
The two 4.5 temblors that struck in August about a dozen miles away in the Yorba Linda area turned a few heads but caused no damage on campus. But what if one had been 6.5 … or maybe 8.0 – The Big One? Nature may seem capricious, and geologic time can be measured in millennia, but make no mistake: Southern California is in the crosshairs, and a major earthquake is in its future.
The Great California ShakeOut is one way to remind people that life can change in an instant and how to prepare for that moment. This Thursday, Oct. 18, at 10:18 a.m., the university community will participate in the annual state earthquake drill. Building marshals, floor captains and other emergency responders around campus will instruct people to drop, cover and hold on for one minute. Those who are in class or otherwise unable to take cover under a desk should drop and stay low while protecting their heads.
The simple procedure – a minor inconvenience at worst – could prove vitally important in an earthquake, says Debbi McFall, the university’s emergency services coordinator.
“One of the biggest mistakes people make during or right after an earthquake is to run outside,” McFall says. “Unless you are in imminent danger – unless there’s a fire in your building, for example – you should stay put. You are at greater risk of being hit by a falling object if you flee, and at the very least you will very likely get in the way of emergency responders if you dash outside and mill around.”
Preparation can not only calm your nerves, it can make life easier for everyone. Those who work in an office should avoid putting heavy objects in high places.
“For some reason, people tend to put heavy stuff high,” McFall says. “Look around and see what you can do to move those objects lower. And if you can’t, be sure to secure them so they don’t become flying objects in an earthquake.”
One of the worst things someone can do after an earthquake is to pick up the phone and start calling people. “If you have to get hold of someone, text instead,” McFall says. “It puts far less strain on the communications system.” Better yet, she encourages everyone to designate someone in advance that family and close friends can “check in with” via text. “That’s the best way to quickly determine who is accounted for,” McFall says.
The university is stocked with food and water in the event of an emergency, but everyone should have a portable, personal emergency kit that includes a small flashlight and a small first-aid kit. Be aware of evacuation points on campus that are safe and out of the way of emergency responders, and if you need assistance, know who to look for, McFall says. “They’re easy to spot: They’re wearing orange or green vests.”