WEHOville

It’s Going to Happen! Now What Are You Going to Do About It?

Tue, Sep 19, 2017   By Carleton Cronin   

Earthquake-damaged house after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.
(Photo courtesy Andrea Bocherer, FEMA)

Only 3.6? Few people in West Hollywood felt the 3.6 tremor at 11:30 p.m. Monday night. It was a small one on the dreaded San Andreas fault, where the “big one” is supposed to originate. Was it a fore-shock or just another small temblor, the sort we experience nearly every day? If anything, small or large, it should be a stark reminder of the inevitability, the certainty, that a major earthquake is in our future.

Earthquakes are not yet very predictable except to know that certain faults are the most likely to move. However, the Northridge quake of 1994 occurred on a previously unmapped (unknown) fault and caused considerable damage and loss of life.

There was no possible way to predict such an event. We do not know much about the earth despite all of our scientific probing. We do know where the oil and many other minerals are and have a pretty good idea of the general makeup of the planet, but we still lack a lot of detail even as we trash the only place we have to live.

Predicting earthquakes is an inexact but evolving science. Recently in the national news was the stated intention of the Trump administration to defund a project that would be able to give about a 60 second warning of an impending quake. That’s barely enough time to get your underpants on and run, but it’s better than nothing.

In previous pieces on WEHOville we have written a great deal about preparation. Some things bear repeating. In Franklin Foer’s recent book, “World without a Mind,” he mentions that, because of our incessant reliance on our electronic gadgets for everything from directions to a friend’s house to a boarding pass for an airplane flight, we (many of us) have “no time for contemplation.” Yet, we must tear ourselves away from our phones and tablets in order to find time to prepare for a better form of survival when the earth around us is in dire straits and panic is the first reaction.

Preparing for survival takes a little time. Items must be gathered and stored properly. An emergency communication plan must be adopted so that family and others outside our area can know we are all right. Simple skills such as basic first aid and how to shut down certain utilities if needed are easily acquired – but it takes a little time and organization to learn.

To reiterate, here are some close-at-hand resources:

CERT. Community Emergency Response Team – the most popular training course for individuals and families teaches how to make a basic initial medical triage, do damage assessment (is my house stable?), create personal and family preparedness, prepare for first aid, fire suppression, hazardous material awareness and other necessary skills. CERT training is provided by the L.A. County Fire Department. Information is available on the city website or by contacting the West Hollywood Public Safety Division at (323)848-6414.

Red Cross. A full line of first aid courses for individuals, families, child care facilities, nursing homes, schools and businesses is available through the Red Cross. Volunteer opportunities are many, and you can learn how to open and manage a shelter, assist mobile teams at food and water stations, etc. The Greater Los Angeles Chapter can be reached at (310) 445-9900. The local chapter is at 11355 Ohio Ave. in West Los Angeles.

The City of West Hollywood’s Public Safety Division. A large number of down-loadable material is available on the city’s website. I particularly recommend the WHIP (West Hollywood Is Prepared) booklet, not because I helped to write it but because it contains lots of information unique to West Hollywood. In the last few pages are many addresses and phone numbers and email addresses. Public Safety now has a full-time emergency management coordinator to answer specific questions.

Speaking of preparedness, although it has been several years since my last visit, which was a drill, Los Angeles County has a superb Emergency Operations Center. Housed is a specially designed reinforced concrete structure, set on shock absorbers and unattached to the surrounding earth, it is meant to be self-contained during any disaster or civil emergency. It would be the communications center and the place where the principal Incident Commander holds forth. How it functions is something you could learn in detail during a CERT class, I believe.

When the “big one” happens will you know what to do? What can you expect from emergency services? What will the city be doing after the dust settles? Here are some of the answers.

L.A. County Fire Dept. If there is any sort of warning system, the fire department will roll out its equipment in front of the station so as to be safer and ready to roll. Then, the first item of business is assessment, which means the fire rigs will rove through the area seeing where they are most needed. They will not respond to people trying to wave them down. They will go to the spots where they can do the most good.
L.A. County Sheriff – Public safety would be No. 1 and property security No. 2, but often the two missions combine. After any wide-spread disaster, looters and other criminals appear as if by magic, and the police must double their guard. Depending on the severity and timing of the disaster, there may not be a full complement of deputies in the city.

—  City of West Hollywood. The city maintains an EOC – Emergency Operations Center – at City Hall. Depending on the timing of a disaster, it may or may not be at full strength. During the four business days each week, from 0700 to 1600, I should expect that it be fully manned and in communication with the county and relief organizations. At other hours, it may not be fully staffed because many city employees live in other cities. The city’s voluminous disaster plan in the Public Safety Division spells all that out.

Red Cross. Typically, the Red Cross responds rapidly to areas of disaster with professional assistance, establishing shelters, registering survivors, delivering water and food and even psychological aid. But, don’t expect that a shelter will be readily available in WeHo. It may be located elsewhere in nearby Los Angles or in Beverly Hills. But, wherever it is set up, go there to be registered as still alive so others seeking news of you will be served.

There are a lot of ifs with which to deal in any disaster and the information here is sketchy because of space, mostly. My parting shot is, as the Boy Scouts say: BE PREPARED..

P.S.: 6.8 in Mexico! Are we next?

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Carleton Cronin

About Carleton Cronin

Carleton Cronin and his wife, Toby Ann, have lived in West Hollywood since 1974. They have raised four sons here, and Cronin has long been an astute observer of civic life.

View all posts by Carleton Cronin →

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