Preparing for The Big One


Statewide earthquake exercise on tap

A major earthquake is highly likely to shake Southern California in the next 30 years. That’s why the entire region is taking a day to prepare for “The Great Southern Californian Shake Out” Nov. 13.

Local governments, emergency response services, schools and citizens will practice what to do if a 7.8 magnitude earthquake occurs along the southern portion of the San Andres Fault near the Salton Sea - that’s 5,000 times larger than the 5.4 earthquake where July 29 in the Los Angeles area.

The scenario is also the basis of the annual statewide emergency response exercise, the Golden Guardian, from Nov. 13 to 18.

The purpose of the two practice drills is to evaluate the state’s ability to respond to a large-scale disaster, which in this scenario is expected to cause more than 2,000 deaths, 50,000 injuries and $200 billion in damages.

Refugee influx

This particular scenario shows only light shaking perceived in San Diego County, with much more severe shaking in areas surrounding Los Angeles. San Diego will practice not only responding to any damage that may occur, but to an influx in refugees from other counties.

In Solana Beach and Del Mar, emergency operation centers will open and city staff will practice their roles to communicate critical information to the county’s central operation center, said Deputy Fire Chief Dismas Abelman.

Many city staff had real experience working an emergency operations center during the 2007 wildfires. However, it’s always good to practice, Abelman said.

“It’s a disposable skill,” he said. “It gives people an opportunity to do something they don’t do on daily basis, so they are share and trained on what to do.”

Damage assessment

The fire departments plan to actually put boots on the ground and conduct a damage assessment survey of the cities, before deciding where to send the most resources. They will practice various communications systems failing, using radios and people to convey messages.

The Community Emergency Response Team members who were recently trained as shelter workers will participate in a tabletop exercise for setting up the Del Mar Fairgrounds as a shelter.

Remember to drop, cover and hold on in an earthquake. For more information go to



Earthquakes? Don’t Freak Out-ShakeOut!

What if you knew that a magnitude 7.8 earthquake would happen in less than three weeks? In a new video interview, USGS earthquake scientist Dr. Lucy Jones explains that millions of Southern Californians will be preparing as if they do know, thanks to the Great Southern California ShakeOut.

Details and Downloads

The ShakeOut, which takes place in Southern California on Nov. 13, 2008, will be the largest earthquake drill in United States history. It’s based on a scenario that the USGS created along with emergency responders, power, water and transportation departments, social scientists, engineers and many others.

“We wanted to understand not just what this would physically do, but what this would do to our society,” said Jones. “By putting that picture together, we’ve created something that’s a lot more useful because it matters to people.”

In the scenario, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake occurs on the southern San Andreas Fault, striking much of Southern California. This is roughly the same magnitude as earthquakes that struck California in 1857 and 1906,”

“A big San Andreas earthquake is inevitable, and it’s something every Southern Californian should be ready for,” said Jones.

The earthquake in this scenario would lead to 1,800 deaths and more than $200 billion in losses.

The ShakeOut is a great science application and tool for decision makers, but it’s also a chance for the public to make a difference.

“You have an individual responsibility for your own earthquake safety, but you’re also part of a bigger community,” said Jones. “What each of us do or don’t do to prepare for a big earthquake affects what all of our lives will be like after one, so do your part.”

You can check out the interview in episode 70 of CoreCast at