FEMA Natural Disaster News


Why are so many people unprepared?

No part of the world is immune to disaster. Every place where people live is susceptible to one catastrophe or another. In each place, people prepare. Residents in tornado alley have storm shelters. People who face blizzards have provisions made. But there is one place where nobody is prepared: California.

Los Angeles is about to suffer the largest catastrophe in the city’s history, yet millions remain unprepared.

LOS ANGELES, CA –The greatest disaster California faces is drought, but drought doesn’t get much attention because it’s not as dramatic as California’s other disaster, earthquakes.

California is known for earthquakes. The quake is up there with Hollywood, surfing, and Disneyland. Sometimes, Hollywood makes blockbusters about earthquakes. Everyone is shocked at scenes that reveal massive gashes in the earth and high-rise office buildings collapsing, as fiction, it’s great entertainment.

Despite these Hollywood warnings, Californians are ill prepared for a major quake. Even with hundreds of small, local quakes to jolt people into their senses, only ten percent of Californians have earthquake insurance, and that number is in decline. It has fallen by half since the 1989 World Series quake.

Key infrastructure in the state is insulated against a major quake. New construction takes major quakes into account. Old construction has been retrofitted. But this alone is not protection from the big one.

The big one is expected to last for two minutes. That’s a lot longer than the fifteen seconds or so that Californians experience in moderate quakes. A quake that lasts 30-40 seconds is regarded as major. Structures can survive moderate quakes. They can be specially built to withstand 40 seconds of shaking. But when shaking ranges into the minutes, all bets are off.

The big one will deliver aftershocks that are almost as powerful as the main shock. Aftershocks will begin within minutes of the main quake and will repeatedly strike for weeks afterward, although their intensity and frequency will diminish.

These aftershocks will halt rescue efforts and disrupt everything each time for several days afterward. Some structures can fail in the aftershocks.

Given these facts, why aren’t residents prepared? Even SWAT Teams are Helpless Against This…

The reason has to do with emotions and the fact that people tend to ignore things they cannot avoid. Many Californians are skeptical that such a quake will impact their life, or happen at all.

Experts have predicted a major quake in California for a century or more, and after decades of waiting, most people have dismissed the periodic warnings. It’s a case of crying wolf too many times.

Yet the research published this year, predicting the quake within the next thirty years, is based on the latest research. That work takes into account over a thousand years of geologic history, carefully gleaned from trenches dug directly into the San Andreas. It’s the first study of its kind in that section of the fault.

This is happening, and there is no escaping the fact. As a result, everyone who lives in Bakersfield and the Los Angeles area ought to have earthquake insurance. To skip this expense borders on negligence. Too many people walk away assuming they are safe, or they are too poor to pay the added monthly fee. Are they rich enough to rebuild their house?

A quake does not have to collapse a structure to destroy it; it merely has to shift it a few inches, or twist the right support just enough. Structures can appear superficially undamaged, only to be lost in an aftershock, or be condemned upon later inspection.

The primary cost to Californians will be economic. And while millions assume the government will bail them out following the disaster, they are mistaken. There remains to this day, wards in New Orleans that are ruined from Hurricane Katrina.

The state is taking some measures. An early warning system will begin deployment in 2018, although roll-out will be slow. The system may provide a few seconds of warning to people, enough to take cover, stop commuter trains and slow traffic on the freeways.

The state also holds an annual statewide earthquake drill, in which millions of people participate.

It’s time for families to prepare and practice because when the big one hits, it will be more powerful than anything living Californians have experienced before. The impacts will be profound and will change millions of lives. The only protection is to be prepared, though practice, preparation, insurance, and good common sense.


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