Preparing for the Big One

Shoppers get some lessons on how to be ready for an earthquake and how to cope after.

August 13, 2008|By Jeremy Oberstein

BURBANK — The magnitude 5.4 earthquake that jolted Southern California on July 29 did little damage to the region’s homes and infrastructure, but it was enough for Janelle Williams to realize she was unprepared for the Big One.

Williams was one of about three dozen curious onlookers and shoppers at Burbank’s Home Depot on Saturday attending an earthquake-preparedness seminar organized by the home improvement store and the Burbank Fire Department, with help from the American Red Cross.

“At one point, I was prepared, but now, I am absolutely not prepared,” Williams said.

“I need to stock up on bottled water and update my first-aid kit.”

The event was organized weeks before the recent earthquake struck at 11:42 a.m. near Chino, but the jolt reinforced the need for a seminar based on the relative lack of preparedness many residents had expressed, said Burbank fire Capt. Daryl Isozaki, the emergency services manager for the city.


The day of the earthquake, Isozaki and other emergency officials throughout the region had been participating in an earthquake recovery conference in Lakewood. He and others dove under a table and realized Saturday’s seminar could not have come at a better time.

“It was a blessing in disguise,” he said of the earthquake.

“It’s difficult for people to get prepared. Most don’t know how. So, this is a good opportunity for them to know where to get emergency kits, and how to take responsibility for yourself.”

Some at the seminar, which included CPR demonstrations by the Red Cross and tables stocked with emergency kits for sale, said they would be ready if a larger temblor were to shake the Southland, but that Saturday’s session was still necessary.

El Sereno preschool teacher Larry Akman, 55, said he already has an emergency bag stuffed with nonperishable goods in his car and was unfazed by last month’s shaking.

The same could be said for his students, who range in age from 2 to 4 years old. When the quake struck, he said his students looked up, looked around and mostly went back to their projects.

Still, Akman picked up two children’s books from the Red Cross table and said he will go back to his class to practice earthquake and fire drills and what to do if a larger quake strikes the region.

As he spoke, Brian Lowe, director of public relations for disaster preparedness kit company Ready America, extolled the virtues of vigilance to would-be customers poring through the $45 kits and “museum wax” for sale.

Sales at Ready America shot up more than 30% after July 29 as the idea of an earthquake became a reality for many unprepared residents who may be forced to leave their home at a moment’s notice, he said.

“People are always unprepared for an earthquake until they get one,” Lowe said.

That idea hit home for Daniella Maucere, 7, who experienced her first earthquake on July 29 and said she is now ready for future temblors.

“The earthquake was short and not that bad,” she said. “I learned today that I need to go under the table and about CPR. I’m ready.”

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