California ShakeOut Targets Earthquake Preparedness

Pomona Geology Professor Linda Reinen gave a talk Wednesday to about 50 students on the Great California ShakeOut, a large-scale emergency disaster drill that about nine million people around California participated in on Thursday.

The drill is based on the ShakeOut Scenario, a 2008 report from the U.S. Geological Survey that models the impact of a high magnitude earthquake along the San Andreas fault and the damage it would cause.

Since its inception in 2008, participation in the ShakeOut has grown from about 5.3 million people based mainly in Southern California to just under nine million people throughout California and a handful of other states. According to Reinen, other countries around the world will join in the event by 2014.

The purpose of the drill is to “identify the physical, social, and economic consequences of a major earthquake [and to] come up with actions that can reduce [them],” Reinen said in her presentation. The ShakeOut is designed to prepare individuals to cope with a high magnitude earthquake and to condition emergency first responders to communicate with each other and to take action.

According to Reinen, one lesson of a previous drill was that some hospitals will receive huge numbers of patients, while other emergency rooms stand empty. By highlighting that discrepancy and addressing it, hospitals can better prepare themselves for an emergency.

A major slip—geology speak for any relative movement between the earth’s tectonic plates—along the San Andreas fault would have disastrous repercussions for the community, even months after the first shock. Scientific models indicate major damage to transportation resources, including roads, trains, and bridges, avenues of communication like cell phones and telephone lines, and access to electricity.

According to Assistant Vice President and Director of the Office of Facilities and Campus Services Bob Robinson, who made the introduction, Reinen’s presentation is a semi-annual occurrence that serves to inform the Pomona College community about the region’s earthquake risk.

“[It’s the] annual doom and gloom program,” he said of the presentation.

The San Andreas Fault, a strike-slip fault that runs roughly 810 miles through California, is the tectonic boundary between the Pacific Plate (moving slowly northwest) and the North American Plate (moving southeast, relatively). Movement at that boundary has caused three major earthquakes—in 1680, 1857, and 1906—the most recent of which is famous for the fires and major damage that it caused in San Francisco.

The San Andreas has “a lot of built up slip,” Reinen said. This means Southern California residents are at risk of experiencing a major earthquake at almost any time.

The fault is also very active, causing upwards of 300 earthquakes in a single week, but most of these are too small to notice.

The two most recent earthquakes that caused real damage in the Claremont area were the 1990 Upland earthquake—which had its epicenter in Claremont—and the 2008 Chino Hills earthquake, Reinen said.

Reinen ended her presentation by encouraging everyone to be prepared by keeping shoes and a flashlight readily available, as well as supplies such as food and water. Reinen estimated that because damage from an earthquake could disable regular supply lines like highways, responders could take up to three days to arrive, so residents should be adequately prepared.

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