Drop, Cover, and Hold On!

Nearly five years ago, I spent two months researching, conducting interviews, and writing a package of stories to mark the 10th anniversary of the Northridge Quake, a magnitude 6.7 earthquake that occurred at 4:31 a.m. on Jan. 17, 1994, nearly 11 miles beneath the San Fernando Valley, on a blind thrust fault.

That quake, known today in LA as simply "Northridge," pushed parts of the Santa Susana Mountains an additional 2 feet or more above sea level, started massive natural gas fires, collapsed bridges and buildings, buried people alive, killed 57, injured more than 9,000 and displaced at least 20,000.

It could have been worse, far worse.

Had Northridge occurred during work hours, when more people were in their cars beneath those bridges that failed, or at their desks in buildings that sustained major damage, there is no doubt that the death toll would have been much, much higher.

I wasn't here for Northridge, but after writing that story, I expect I tested my spouse's tolerance for doomsaying as I pushed us to prepare.

I secured all our shelving to the walls (I'm a writer, so that's a lot of shelving), stocked an ample supply of batteries and water (all rotated on schedule to ensure freshness), placed emergency kits in our vehicles (water, batteries, flashlights, first-aid supplies, matches, food, blankets, toothpaste, soap, toilet paper, tampons, etc...), purchased a set of two-way radios (cell phones won't work after a major quake), and, did I mention water and batteries?

Are you ready?

Today is The Great Southern California ShakeOut, "the largest earthquake preparedness activity in U.S. history." That alone is reason enough to check out the Web site and get a sense of what to expect. I guarantee it will at least move you to put together a reunion plan should such a disaster occur when everyone in your family is in a different location throughout the LA area.

Consider how much advance notice we get for hurricanes, and yet people inevitably end up stranded without food, water, or medical care.

Earthquakes are no-notice events.

TJ Sullivan


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