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Get Ready for the ‘Big One’

La Habra Quake Prompts Preparedness Calls

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Posted: Thursday, April 3, 2014 12:00 am

Though many mountain residents were rattled by Friday night’s 5.1-magnitude earthquake centered near La Habra, a County Fire official said his department received no reports of damage or injury in any of the areas County Fire protects.

But though mountain communities escaped serious harm from the temblor, County Fire Public Information Officer Eric Sherwin stresses preparation, because experts say the long-awaited “big one” could occur at any time.

And, according to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, if it should happen on the southern segment of the San Andreas Fault, which runs along the base of the San Bernardino Mountains, it “would result in substantial damage” to San Bernardino and other cities in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties.

“The information available suggests that the fault is ready for the next big earthquake but exactly when the triggering will happen and when the earthquake will occur we cannot tell,” Wikipedia quotes a 2006 study of the fault as saying. “It could be tomorrow or it could be 10 years or more from now.”

That study was written by Yuri Fialko of the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla.

“It’s very difficult to predict natural disasters, including wildfires and earthquakes,” Sherwin said. “What we can do is to prepare, so we can weather the storm or the aftereffects of an earthquake.”

To that end, Sherwin recommends county residents—especially those living in the mountains, which could be cut off should a quake topple any of the bridges linking mountain communities with the valley floor—take steps to prepare, either for an evacuation or staying in place.

Though helicopters could resupply mountain areas with food fairly quickly after a quake, Sherwin said, getting infrastructure like fallen bridges repaired is another matter altogether, so mountain quake victims could be on their own for three days or more.

County Fire has published a brochure called “Earthquake & Disaster Preparedness,” available online at and clicking the Safety Preparedness tab.

The six-page publication lists key steps in preparing for a quake, assembling a disaster supply kit, creating a family disaster plan and staying safe during a tremor.

Highlights include ensuring a multi-day supply of water is on hand (at least three gallons per person per day, for drinking, cooking and bathing) and replacing it every six months; having at least a week’s worth of food; and stocking items like a first-aid kit, flashlights with extra batteries, a battery-powered radio, tools, a fire extinguisher, cooking implements, extra clothing and needed medications.

A family disaster plan should include pre-selected meeting places, designating an out-of-state family contact, a plan for pet care and practicing home evacuation.

Other pre-disaster preparations the booklet recommends include learning CPR and first aid; knowing how to turn off water, electricity and power in case those utilities are damaged by the shaking; identifying safe spots in each room (like under sturdy tables); and securing heavy objects like mirrors that could fall during a quake.

Though the La Habra quake occurred on the relatively little-known Puente Hills Fault and its damage was mostly limited to the north Orange County area, damage to mountain communities would most likely result from movement along the southern leg of the San Andreas Fault.

Wikipedia says that section of the fault, unlike its northern and central segments, has not had a massive quake in at least 300 years.

In 1857, a 7.9-magnitude quake shook the Fort Tejon area on the fault’s central leg, while the 1906 San Francisco quake, estimated at from 7.8 to 8.25, was the most recent massive shaker on its northern segment.

The 2006 study cited says the fault has reached a sufficient stress level for a magnitude 7 quake to occur, adding that “the risk of a large earthquake may be increasing more rapidly than researchers had previously thought.”

The La Habra quake reportedly triggered some 150 aftershocks and resulted in more than a dozen homes being red-tagged—deemed uninhabitable—and ruptured several water mains.

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