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State Officials Urge Disaster Preparedness

By Olin Ericksen
Staff Writer

September 8 -- A California-based commission on earthquake safety warned Wednesday that the swathe of destruction left by Katrina should serve as a "wake-up call" to prepare in the event a similar disaster strikes cities on the West Coast.

"If you close your eyes and imagine an earthquake happened instead of Katrina, the image would be the same: collapsed buildings, no running water or electricity, displaced citizens, and vast devastation", Seismic Safety Chairman Larry Klein said.

If a large earthquake or tsunami struck a densely populated City -- such as Los Angeles or San Francisco -- possibly tens of thousands would be without shelter and food for several days, according to the commission.

Californians should be prepared with clean drinking water, medicine, cash, copies of financial documents and a family disaster plan that includes how to reach family members in and out of the disaster area, the commission said.

California residents should review the web sites of the Red Cross, the Governor's Office of Emergency Services and Operation Hope to find out how to best prepare against a catastrophic event, according to the commission.

"It is easier to be ready before than to "prepare" after the disaster. This is why it is so important to get ready now," said Klein.

Early preparation may be more important in case of a disaster in California because, unlike a hurricane, an earthquake or tsunami could strike anytime, without warning.

If a tsunami were to strike Santa Monica, much of the City would be protected by the Palisades Bluffs north of the Santa Monica pier, according to the Office of Emergency Services.

Unprotected areas include anything below the bluffs and south of the pier, where residents are advised to evacuate a fourth of a mile (four blocks) inland in the event of a tsunami or strong earthquake lasting 20 seconds or more.

In the event of an earthquake residents should drop, cover and hold until the shaking stops and respond quickly, without waiting for an official warning, emergency experts said.

While predicting a disaster on the West Coast may be an impossibility, local Emergency Services Coordinator Paul Weinberg said one thing the Los Angeles area has is better trained and more experienced first responders.

"I think we would be better prepared to deal with a disaster like Katrina here given that we have year-round training," Weinberg said.

He noted that several members of Santa Monica's fire department specialize in search and rescue efforts, in dealing with hazardous materials and in paramedic related duties.

Santa Monica is part of a larger "mutaul aid region" that coordinates emergency response in the event of an earthquake or tsunami, Weinberg said.

For more information:

Seismic Safety Commission: www.seismic.ca.gov

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