Recent seismic activity around the globe has spawned unofficial and misleading “predictions” of large-scale disasters imminent within specific hours or on a particular day. While these types of non-peer-reviewed predictions surface after disasters, the Internet has provided a medium through which misinformation can spread faster and more widely than ever before.

The latest online rumors predicting that a magnitude-5.0 to -6.5 quake will strike California within the next 48 hours have been widely circulated through social networking Web sites such as Twitter and Facebook, but Californians are being cautioned against buying into misinformation.

“Although the broad scientific community has been working relentlessly to give us better information about earthquakes and their behavior, being able to predict when earthquakes will strike is not something they can do at this point,” California Emergency Management Agency Secretary Matt Bettenhausen said. “The fact is that we live in a very seismically active state where an earthquake may occur anytime. That means we must take steps now to prepare for any event.”

One of the most common and essential items one can assemble to prepare for a disaster is an emergency preparedness kit. This kit would contain enough food, water and supplies to sustain each member of a household for a minimum of 72 hours. A battery powered radio is also essential to have on hand.

Developing a family emergency plan with evacuation routes and important contact information is another tool for keeping safe in an emergency.

“Rumors can be scary, but being prepared is something that can truly help you feel better about your ability to survive the next big quake,” Bettenhausen said.

— Geri Ventura is a spokeswoman for the Montecito Fire Protection District.