Pasadena officials are urging city residents to take a minute on Thursday to prepare themselves and their loved ones for the inevitable: a large, damaging earthquake in California that seismologists have long warned is overdue.
The third Thursday of October is traditionally the day of The Great ShakeOut statewide earthquake drill.
But this year’s event is expected to take on a decidedly different tone, as many throughout Pasadena and elsewhere continue working or attending school from home. While formally scheduled for 10:15 a.m., participants are encouraged to take part whenever their schedule permits.
“In the past, school-age children have been asked to drop cover, hold on for The Great shakeout at school. Now they’re at home. So we don’t want that to be a reason why they do not do it,” city spokesperson Lisa Derderian said. “We really want to reinforce the message that because they’re home, it’s a good opportunity to talk as a family and communicate as a family on what to do during an earthquake.”
It’s an excellent time to review “drop, cover and hold on,” as well as forming family emergency plans, identifying potential hazards, and restocking emergency kits.
“We don’t want people hoarding, but we need you to have extra supplies on hand for the large earthquake where the infrastructure could be affected. …We don’t want to scare you, we want to prepare you,” Derderian said.
“In the last six months, we’ve experienced COVID, wildfires in our own backyard, the worst air quality in years, and the (4.5 magnitude) earthquake a few weeks ago,” she said. “So Mother Nature doesn’t care that we’re the middle of a pandemic.”
Practicing earthquake drills helps instill the procedures in memory, so they can be performed without thinking during or in the wake of a disaster, such as a massive earthquake, according to Margaret Vinci, who serves as manager of the Office of Earthquake Programs at Caltech and is a regional ShakerAlert coordinator, a volunteer with the Pasadena Fire Department’s Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, and a coordinator of Pasadena’s “Map Your Neighborhood” emergency response program. She was involved in the committee that first created The Great ShakeOut in 2008.
Since the drill coincides with the pandemic, “This is an opportunity for people that usually work and do their drills at work to actually drill at home. And to bring in the other members of your household — your children, your family — to drill with them as well,” Vinci said.
It’s not just about going through the motions, she added. “It’s for everybody to stop what they’re doing to then think about what would happen if you were to get a Shake Alert early warning, or to feel shaking.”
“The more they practice, the more their body will intuitively get them into a safe place, so even with two seconds of warning, or if they feel the shaking, if they know where that safe place is, they can get there within a second,” Vinci said.
The Great ShakeOut will likely look a little different this year for workplaces, as well, with social distancing precautions now part of the equation, she said.
“You want to make sure that you protect yourself from COVID if you’re doing a drill with other people. If you’re doing a drill in the office or with other people, you want to make sure that you practice your COVID practices,” said Vinci.
“So if you can, try to social distance,” she added. “Also, make sure that you have your mask, so that after that shaking, when you get out from under your safe place, you’ve got your mask, you’ve got your sanitizer, because there may be no water.”
In addition to taking part in The Great Shakeout, city officials urged Pasadenans to join in the Pasadena Fire Department’s Map Your Neighborhood program, designed to help neighbors help each other in the critical first hour following a disaster.
Perry Helm, a former Pasadena Fire Department Disaster Advisory Council Member, remains active in the Map Your Neighborhood program. He said he was in the midst of working to organize blocks in the Hastings Ranch and Orange Heights neighborhoods.
“The whole idea behind it is a disaster preparation program that is designed to help people have a plan for the first hour after the earthquake hits. So, in other words: What do you do?” he said.
Neighbors are encouraged to meet with one another, largely taking place online due to the pandemic, to get to know each other, as well as hazards and resources that would be important to know about in the aftermath of a catastrophe, earthquake or otherwise.
Residents are urged to take note of where vulnerable neighbors live, which homes have pets, and where utility shut off valves are located, organizers said.
“Who has first aid training? Who’s a nurse? Who has a fire extinguisher? Who has a generator?” Helm said. “You’re gathering information about your neighbors as far as what tools they have and what skills they have. And so you can put that to best use to protect your neighborhood.”
The city also maintains a volunteer Community Emergency Response Team, with regular training sessions held throughout the year. But training has been put on hold due to the pandemic as officials consider when and how to proceed, according to Vinci.
More information on the Map Your Neighborhood program, as well as downloadable materials, including brochures and videos, is available online at cityofpasadena.net/fire/community-programs/map-your-neighborhood.
Police, fire, and city officials are planning an online disaster preparedness forum at 6 p.m. Tuesday via Zoom, officials said.
The forum can be accessed at us02web.zoom.us/j/85911546912, using Meeting ID 859 11546912, or by phone by calling (669) 900-6833.
More information about The Great ShakeOut is available online at shakeout.org/california.