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Los Angeles Times Special Quake Report: One Year Later : Still Shaken / Challenges : The Comeback Trail / Twists and Turns on the Road to Recovery : Unprepared on the Home Front

TIMES STAFF WRITER

When the earthquake hit Jan. 17, 1994, Victoria Rouira of Redondo Beach sat in her bed shaking for a moment and then did what most Californians believe is the safest thing to do during a temblor. She ran for the doorway.

“That’s probably what I would do again,” said Rouira, who admits that her family does not have any supplies or an emergency evacuation plan in the event of another quake. “We really haven’t done much thinking about it.”

Rouira is not alone. A recent statewide survey commissioned by the Office of Emergency Services shows that a low percentage of residents are adequately prepared for earthquakes.

The study gave officials “an indication that although people have experienced (earthquakes), they are not experts,” said OES spokesman Jaime Arteaga.

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The survey, which polled randomly selected registered voters, determined that many are not aware that the “duck, cover and hold” method--getting under a table and holding on until the quake ends--is the best action to take. Forty percent believed that standing in a doorway was the safest action during an earthquake.

The Red Cross, which sheltered 22,004 people after the quake, is just one of the organizations that has been working diligently to educate the public.

“What the surveys show is that people who have children seem to be more prepared,” said Peggy Brutsche, Red Cross director of disaster services. “The good thing I can say about Los Angeles is, I think as a community we have been teaching earthquake awareness longer than anyone else.”

The Disaster Preparedness store, with locations in Sherman Oaks, San Diego and Manhattan Beach, has seen business slow from the frenzied pace after the quake that prompted the temporary opening of a fourth store in the Glendale Galleria.

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“Business is not brisk, (but) it’s steady,” said owner Adolf Singh. “Certainly not to the extent it was right after the earthquake and up to four months after.”

The store sells items such as survival kits, security lights that activate automatically during a power outage, and adhesive to keep items from flying around homes.

In the initial months after the earthquake, survival kits were sailing out of the store at a rate of 200 to 300 per month, Singh said. That number is now down to fewer than 100 per month.

“After the people heard about the earthquake in Japan, quite a few came in,” said an employee at the Sherman Oaks store. “There are still people today suffering the psychological effects.

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“There are people who come in and look around and say ‘I just can’t think about this right now.’ ”


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