Having experienced other natural disasters, one of the first things I did upon moving to California was to read everything I could find on earthquakes and how to prepare…all two books. The internet was a daydream so I talked to people who had been in earthquakes and made note of what to do.
My family thought I was nuts.
On January 17, 1994, that interpretation of my adamant prep rules was changed from “Crazy Lady” to “Do you have…” That was the Northridge earthquake, and while it was quite strong, it wasn’t even near the size of the expected “Big One.”
The Great Shakeout: On the anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake (Oct. 17, 1989) California has an annual “Great Shakeout.” It is in depth training for schools, rescue personnel and any others who want to participate. A simulator is available so that the public can feel how severe ground motion is in an earthquake. People (including school students) take on roles of injured or trapped parties. There is extensive news coverage…and it’s a good thing.
Loma Prieta: This earthquake was on the infamous San Andreas Fault. 63 people died, thousands were injured and tens of thousands of homes/businesses were damaged. A double deck freeway collapsed. A double deck bridge had a collapse of an upper span. Part of Candlestick Park was damaged. This was before game time of the World Series. This is a good reason to have earthquake preparation days.
Northridge: This was on a previously unknown blind thrust fault. As with Loma Prieta, there were freeway collapses and damaged homes. A parking structure collapsed and pinned a man running a sweeper prior to the mall opening.
The damage we saw, as we were smack in the middle of it, was devastating. Several stores in a small mall collapsed (thankfully they were empty). We watched a huge section of a nearby mountain slide. Within minutes the dust covered our city (and us). It was a nightmare. This is a good reason to have preparation days.
In an earthquake it may surprise you how much you miss things you take for granted. It may also surprise you how much you remember of the things you learned on these preparation days. We had no hot water. It wasn’t because our water heater was destroyed…the Crazy Earthquake Lady made someone strap it to wall studs. It was because the flex hoses ($5 ea) were no longer attached. I showed my family how to wash (including hair) without a shower or a water heater.
What we missed most were things to do and things that gave us some semblance of normalcy in a world where the ground didn’t seem to stop moving. What we saw others missing were flashlights, batteries, blankets and other necessities.
We need preparation days. To be honest, I think we should have them for all of the natural disasters we’re prone to. Some states actually do this, at least in the schools. It is a great thing to do.