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Opinion, Santa Monica, Columnist, Earthquake

Late Night Shakes And 'The Big One'

Steve Stajich, Columnist
Santa Monica Mirror Archives
Steve Stajich, Columnist

Posted Sep. 8, 2012, 2:03 am

Steve Stajich / Mirror Columnist

By now we’ve seen so much footage from around the world of what nature can do when it acts up and creates upheaval that we might feel that California is losing its edge as the potential home of the always looming “Big One.” Into our rightfully deep-seated fears of a pending major earthquake have been edited the horrific images of the Japanese tsunami, the torrents of damage created by sudden rains and flooding rivers, and the heartbreak and loss of homes and entire neighborhoods following tornadoes. In a relatively short period of time, California has kind of lost that position that it held for so long as the potential epicenter for something really horrible because, sadly, there has been lots of horrible to go around.

Within days our own city of Santa Monica has recently been rattled by two quakes centered in Beverly Hills. Perhaps the reality show crews in BH are somehow jostling tectonic plates in that area, looking for a big finish to their wonderful episodes of preposterous narcissism. “Only an earthquake would make me invite that (b-word) goddess to my pool party!” CUE: 3.5 earthquake, epicenter at the boutique “Me Me Me!” on Rodeo Drive.

When one of the recent quakes rattled Santa Monica at 3:27 a.m., I must confess that I was wiped-out exhausted on the living room couch as the TV played an infomercial for hair plugs. My reaction time wasn’t what it usually is, and I think my partner was disappointed to find me slowly rising and scratching my head instead of dashing with our 75 pound dog in my arms to the front door. “Didn’t you feel that?” she inquired, as anyone would to someone who had obviously just snored through an earthquake. “Oh, yeah. Guess we had a little quake there.” We both looked at the dog; she never even opened her eyes. So much for that useful warning canines are supposed to provide just before a quake hits. Then we both stared at each other, and went back to sleep.

At our house we know the monster called “The Big One” still lurks, yet we’ve also become increasingly slack in tending to our earthquake kits. We have one buried, and two in the house. During our first years in California, we would annually check those stored provisions and replace anything we thought had expired. Now, with bigger quakes further in the past, we’ve gotten a little less obsessive. That might be a mistake.

Our kits have the expected bottled water, canned food, solar radios… even a little traveling cash if needed. It’s impossible to predict what a Southern California post-‘Big One’ economy might be like but it’s a pretty safe bet that credit cards could be useless, especially if there’s no electricity to confirm a purchase. Would there be a black market run by quick-profit pirates vending water and food? How much for an energy bar and some Gatorade? Would we barter? “I desperately need food. What will you give me for my Pez dispenser collection? Here, have a look. This one is Ringo…”

More Prepared is an emergency preparedness outfit located in Hawthorne, California. They sell earthquake preparedness kits, and one of their top items is a 72 hour survival kit that includes food and water for 4 people. The 23 different items are packaged in a sturdy, airtight pail that’s easy to carry and store. Yeah, I’m right with you on the wide variety of potential uses for that pail over the course of 72 hours. One of those uses might be to turn the thing over and sit on it, trying to remember why you ever left Wisconsin.

Except that earthquakes now seem to be occurring everywhere, even in the Midwest. Colorado, Arkansas, Ohio, Illinois… even Wisconsin. A powerful earthquake hit there in 1947 and while its strength was not recorded, many thought there had been some sort of powerful explosion that broke windows and crashed china dishes. And what about that quake that almost brought down chunks of the Washington Monument in DC? I thought only attacking flying saucers had that ability.

However none of this adds up to us becoming blasé about quakes. So here are a few simple tips that the smart people who aren’t sleeping through quakes at More Prepared say we need to take heed of.

Have an adequate and safe water supply. You should try to maintain a supply of at least 3 gallons per person for emergency use. While some believe that the water in their water heaters can function as an emergency supply, water in heaters can be hard to access and be unsafe due to deposits that can build up. A safer bet is to use a water barrel storage system made for emergency use. Used with a chemical water preservative, water can be kept safely for up to five years. Yes, your kids will allege that the water “tastes old” but they’re already on record for making that same claim about broccoli.

Additionally, we should pay more attention to securing bookcases and other heavy furniture in our homes. More Prepared says that falling furniture is the number one cause of injury in earthquakes. Have a look at heavy glass objects, such as large picture frames. Hook hardware is available that can keep those items from becoming a danger during a quake. And Californians might consider buying quake alarms for their homes. Be Prepared states that Japan’s warning systems are credited with saving thousands of lives during the deadly quake there and seconds matter during an earthquake. They make no claims about dogs waking you up. But I’m going to work with my dog on this, soon as she’s finished her nap.

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