Jones explains upcoming 'Shake Out'

Anyone who has lived in California for any period of time is aware that the state is earthquake prone. Students participate in earthquake drills throughout their school career and all California residents should have water and food set aside for the “big one.” The problem is there is a big difference between knowing what should be done and actually doing it.

The Great Southern California Shake Out earthquake response scenario that will feature an all-encompassing drill next month hopes to prompt inaction into action, and to get every Californian prepared for the next major earthquake.

On Sept. 25, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory hosted Dr. Lucy Jones, the chief scientist from the Multi Demonstration Project for Southern California.

“A great earthquake is an inevitable part of California's future and Californians are not ready for it,” said Marc Razze, JPL spokesman, as he welcomed the audience to the seminar. “One of the most likely great earthquakes [that could] hit California is on the southern San Andreas fault. That fault is so long that magnitude 7.8 earthquakes are common and the fault moves so fast that earthquakes happen, on average, every 100 years. The last one was in 1857.”

Jones then took the podium and began to explain how the Shake Out came to be and what the scenario hopes to accomplish.

“The Shake Out is a plan to have a weeklong series of special events to inspire Southern Californians to get ready for a big earthquake,” Jones said. “[The Shake Out] will center around an earthquake drill on Nov. 13. This is definitely the largest earthquake drill that has ever taken place in the United States and if we continue to go the way we are going, it is going to be the biggest drill held anywhere in the world.”

The drill is based on the results of a scientific study that encompassed opinions and research from over 300 individuals working in the fields of earth sciences, engineering and social science. Jones said that the Shake Out is unique because it is the first time that these experts will be working in conjunction, presenting a comprehensive overview of how they think the earth, society and structures will all fare after a large earthquake.

The first issue was to choose a fault line for the earthquake.

“That is easier said than done [in Southern California] because we have over 300 faults that are capable of a magnitude of 6,” she said.

The final analysis was that the Shake Out would be based on a potential magnitude 7.8 earthquake on the southern San Andreas Fault, about 5,000 times larger than the magnitude 5.4 earthquake that shook Southern California on July 29.

With the scenario in place, the committees began working on how this type of earthquake would affect Los Angeles County and beyond. It was determined that the damage to structures and contents would be $112.7 billion and businesses would be affected to the tune of $96.2 billion. Following the earthquake, they estimated that 1,600 fire ignitions would occur, requiring a fire engine. Of these, 1,200 would exceed capability of first (or single) engine.

In Northern Orange County and the L.A. Basin, a dozen large fires would merge into conflagrations, destroying hundreds of buildings. An estimated 133,000 single family dwellings would be lost with a property loss of approximately $65 billion.

“And that's without Santa Ana [wind] conditions,” Jones said.

The Shake Out earthquake scenario will combine many emergency responders including Los Angeles County Fire and Crescenta Valley Sheriff's Station. They will work with other local agencies including Altadena Sheriff's Department, Glendale Police and Fire and Los Angeles Police and Fire.

“It is not 'if,' but when,” Jones said of the next earthquake.

The Great Shake Out is a way to find out what works and what needs to be worked on, Jones said.

For information of the Great Southern California Shake Out or to join the scenario, visit the website at

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