A whole lot of shakin’


Let’s see a show of hands: How many of you believe you are completely prepared for the Big One?

I had to throw that word “completely” in there, didn’t I? Otherwise, you might have been inclined to affirm your ability to ride out the impact of the large earthquake along the southern San Andreas Fault that scientists believe is highly probable.

Such an event, by the way, is considered so very likely that scientists of the U.S. Geological Survey are busy planning “The Great Southern California ShakeOut” drill on Nov. 13 to educate us all, in the hopes that a socio-economic catastrophe is averted.

We didn’t have an available reporter to send to Caltech’s kick-off for the ShakeOut June 4. But one of our readers, Trent Sanders, agreed to be deputized on our behalf. He actually attended because he wanted to learn more on the subject, but he willingly took notes for us — and even brought us the information packet handed out during the event.

I’m glad he did. In reviewing his notes I was reminded of how woefully inadequate our own family’s preparations are, simply because we’ve become complacent in the absence of a high magnitude shake-up. We haven’t let the earthquake insurance lapse (did you know something like only 12% of Californians carry that?), but our household’s emergency supplies have dwindled since the weeks after the 1987 Whittier Narrows quake rattled through La Cañada and made me a belated believer in assembling an earthquake kit.

In the November ShakeOut, public drills and emergency response exercises will take place as if a magnitude 7.8 had just struck Southern California. Here’s a sobering thought, found on page 2 of the ShakeOut Scenario handbook, written by 14 leading scientists, including La Cañada’s own Lucy Jones: “If we take no additional actions for preparedness and mitigation, and the ShakeOut earthquake does occur, it will cause some 2,000 deaths, 50,000 injuries, $200 billion in damage, and severe, long-lasting disruption. These numbers can climb with each aftershock.”

The handbook lays out the entire scenario of the hypothetical Nov. 13, 2008 quake, from 10 minutes before it strikes, “By mid-morning on this workday, 200,000 commuters have made their way from Kern, Riverside and San Bernardino counties into the Los Angeles area...” to six months afterward when some tenants of multi-family dwellings would still be living outdoors. The days immediately following such a big quake, it is clear from reading the seismologists’ scenario, which includes a magnitude 7.2 aftershock, will be devastating to the region and its inhabitants, including us.

It’s all very sobering and not much fun to read, but I’m willing to sing the praises of all who are planning and executing the ShakeOut, and I imagine you are, too.

Now, go take a look at your emergency supplies and replenish where necessary. And, to find out more about the Nov. 13 drill, go online to

CAROL CORMACI is the Valley Sun editor. E-mail her at