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Friday, March 22 , 2019, 6:36 pm | Fair 59º


Preparing for an Earthquake Goes Far Beyond ‘Stop, Drop and Hold On’

We all should think about how we can secure items, shut off gas and water — at home and at work

Santa Barbara Community Emergency Response Team volunteers tend to a “victim” during an earthquake response drill. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara Community Emergency Response Team volunteers tend to a “victim” during an earthquake response drill. (Santa Barbara Fire Department file photo)

While people can see some natural disasters like wildfires and floods coming, others strike entirely without warning.

Chief among those — and the one in the back of every Californian’s mind — is “the Big One.”

        |  Emergency Preparedness 2017  |  Complete Series Index  |

Although the practice of ducking below and holding onto a sturdy desk or table has been hammered into our heads since the earthquake drills of elementary school, officials say there is much that we can do to prepare for the shaking ahead of time.

“As human beings, we get quite complacent,” said Robert Lewin, who heads Santa Barbara County’s Office of Emergency Management. “We’ll set things up in our lives that are for a stable environment; we’re not thinking that an earthquake may happen at any time.”

The first thing people can do, he said, is to pause and look around their home and workplaces.

“They need to approach it as if there’s going to be an earthquake in the next few minutes, and ask, ‘What can I do to make it safer?’” he observed.

Cabinets, bookcases and other heavy furniture liable to topple during a quake can be bolted to the wall, and water heaters should be strapped to the wall as well. Household items should be placed with consideration to the possibility that they become projectiles during an earthquake.

It is also essential to know how to shut off gas and water — at home and at work — in case those systems are damaged, Lewin said.

Having a first-aid kit on hand — and knowing how to apply first aid — can be crucial if someone is injured during the shaking.

Safety Matters, UC Santa Barbara and the American Red Cross of Central California-Pacific Coast Chapter all offer first aid and CPR lessons. The county’s Community Emergency Response Team program offers comprehensive training for responding to large-scale disasters.

A Goleta store’s wares were thrown off the shelves during an earthquake that struck the South Coast on Aug. 13, 1978. Click to view larger
A Goleta store’s wares were thrown off the shelves during an earthquake that struck the South Coast on Aug. 13, 1978. (GoletaHistory.com photo)

When indoors and lacking a sturdy desk or table to duck under, the safest place is to remain low against a wall, away from windows and anything that can topple or fall.

Outside, people should stay low to the ground and away from trees, power lines and other hazards. When driving, one should slow down into a clear location and wait in the vehicle until the shaking subsides.

The most important step people can take for any disaster, including earthquakes, is to prepare an emergency kit that includes nonperishable food, water, pet supplies, flashlights, medications, documents and batteries, Santa Barbara County Fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni says.

Families and business employees should also create and practice exit drills, know two ways out of their home or work and have a meeting place outside the house or building where those who were inside can regroup.

“When the fire department pulls up, they know the parents or homeowners can come to them and say, ‘Everybody is accounted for, everybody is out of the house,’” Zaniboni said.

“If it’s an earthquake and we know nobody’s trapped in that house, then we can move on to the next and the next and the next until we have a victim.”

Lewin said even having gas ready for one’s vehicle is important, as earthquakes, perhaps more than any other disaster, can trigger secondary emergencies, like fires, water and power outages; hazardous material spills; and infrastructure collapses that require people to leave their homes or find their way to a friend or relative’s place.

More tips for preparing for an earthquake can be found on the websites of the county Fire Department, the American Red Cross and at ready.gov, a comprehensive, easy-to-use disaster preparedness website.

        |  Emergency Preparedness 2017  |  Complete Series Index  |

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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