Since leaving Southern California a few years ago, I’ve been missing fresh avocado and Disneyland something fierce. One thing I haven’t missed? Earthquakes. I was reminded of how much I didn’t miss them when friends started reporting their experiences online with the recent 6.7 shaker.
While the injury count is encouraging (none), the New York Times points to an important side effect: “For Californians, 2 Quakes Put Preparedness Back on the Map.” According to the article, the relatively gentle reminders lately have reminded a complacent community of the real and imminent danger of larger quakes. In fact, more than just encouraging residents to store water and practice earthquake safety, LA’s mayor is working with a prominent seismologist to overhaul the city’s unsound buildings and shore up its water and communications infrastructure.
The short-term takeaway: events like this remind us of the importance of earthquake preparation. Is my house up to code? Have I stored food and water? Do I have ways to communicate with family or rescuers if phone towers are knocked out? These are important questions to answer, and you can find a thorough range of preparation resources in our post, “How to Prepare for an Earthquake.”
There is, however, an even scarier lesson at work here. Angelinos certainly aren’t exclusively guilty of this, but the situation is a powerful reminder of how quickly we become complacent in our preparations. L.A.’s expert seismologist Lucille M. Jones calls the last 17 years “the quietest time we have ever seen,” in terms of seismic activity—but that’s barely a generation away from the lethal Northridge quake!
A long stint without a disaster accomplishes two potentially fatal things. First, it tips preparedness off the radar of our consciousness. And second, it increases the likelihood of another disaster (for example, if experts predict my neighborhood will flood every ten years, and it’s been nine…). This principle really hits home for me. I said I was relieved to be away from the California fault lines, but experts have been predicting “The Big One,” a 9+ point mega-quake, here in my own Pacific Northwest for ages. The last one was in 1700. We’re long overdue, and we’re nowhere as prepared as Southern California!
Whether it’s earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, or floods in your neck of the woods (and, let’s be honest, it’s never just one), don’t let a calm spell fool you. Follow LA county’s lead and take care of the problem before things get even dicier. Start here, and let us know how else we can help you!