Earthquake Response

On Friday, March 11, 2011, the north coast of Japan was struck by a massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami that caused widespread destruction and devastation. Current estimates predict loss of life in the thousands, and millions are without shelter, food or heat as they brave winter temperatures. Relief organizations around the world are mobilizing to provide relief to those affected by the disaster.

The US State Department website contains additional information about Japan and the earthquake and tsunami relief efforts

Last month I held a second hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Earthquake and Disaster Preparedness, Response and Recovery to look at the impact of the Tohoku earthquake in Japan and the state of preparedness in California.

At this hearing, we took at close look at the readiness of our hospitals, infrastructure and schools.  It is vital that hospitals remain standing and operational in the event of a major earthquake.  While the state has made a lot of progress in this area, there are still too many hospitals that are not going to meet state imposed deadlines.  I am going to continue to work with local and state officials to make sure we are providing any assistance necessary so that our hospitals are ready for the next earthquake.

We also took a look at roads, bridges, water and power supplies.  California has been very pro-active in its efforts to be ready for an earthquake, but work still remains.  We also heard from the Seismic Safety Commission about the impact on agriculture.  Major loss can occur to our fields and livestock if irrigation infrastructure is destroyed.

I have worked throughout my elected career on school seismic safety and to bring attention to this issue. One of my first bills in the legislature was to collect the data creating a list of schools that needed to be retrofitted.  Recent news stories have pointed out that we may need to take another look at our school inspection process and how the state verifies that local schools are safe.

I will continue to spend time making sure this issue is addressed.  In the meantime, I will ask you to make sure your family is prepared in the event of an earthquake. Please take a look at the simple tips listed below.  Earthquakes strike without notice and the best defense we have is preparation.

Take Earthquake Safety Steps Now – Be Safe Later

Stock up. When preparing for an earthquake, plan on having enough supplies to get you and your family through at least the first 72 hours.

  • Food. Enough for 72 hours, preferably one week.
  • Water. Enough so each person has a gallon a day for 72 hours, preferably one week. Store in airtight containers and replace them every six months. Store disinfectants such as iodine tablets or chlorine bleach, eight drops per gallon, to purify water if necessary.
  • First aid kit. Make sure it's well stocked, especially with bandages and disinfectants.
  • Special items. Have at least a week's supply of medications and food for infants and those with special needs.
  • Don't forget food for your pet.

Develop a household emergency plan:

  • Decide how and where your family will reunite if you are separated.
  • Select an out-of-town friend or relative who separated family members can call after the quake to report their location and condition.
  • Know the safe spots in each room: under sturdy tables, desks or against inside walls.
  • Know the dangerous areas: windows, mirrors, hanging objects, fireplaces and tall, unsecured furniture.
  • Practice earthquake drills with children so they'll immediately know what to do if a quake strikes.

Here are some tips on making your household safe:

The greatest risk of injury during an earthquake is from non-structural hazards. Falling objects, fixtures, and heavy furniture account for a large percentage of injuries.

When the ground starts to matter where you are, know how to protect yourself and your family during an earthquake.

Duck ... Cover ... and Hold

  • Duck. Or drop down on the floor.
  • Cover. Take cover under a sturdy desk, table or other furniture. If that is not possible, seek cover against an interior wall and protect your head and neck with your hands. Avoid danger spots near windows, hanging objects, mirrors or tall furniture.
  • Hold. If you take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture, hold on to it and be prepared to move with it. Hold the position until the ground stops shaking and it is safe to move.