Every year we experience thousands of earthquakes in California — but most are too small to be felt.
From the cluster of earthquakes — at least 30 — that rattled northern Orange County in early August to the small tremor in Beverly Hills last month, many earthquakes didn’t fly under the radar.
“This year, a lot of earthquakes have been felt, so this creates a peak in interest in being prepared,” said Steve Goldfarb, fire safety and emergency planning specialist with USC Career and Protective Services.
On Oct. 18 at 10:18 a.m., an estimated 9 million people will participate in the fifth annual Great California ShakeOut. The world’s largest earthquake drill, the ShakeOut aims to inform people on how to prepare for, survive and recover from the next major quake.
“A ‘Big One’ is going to come, and when it does, we are committed that Californians be fully prepared to survive the shaking and recover quickly,” said ShakeOut founder Mark Benthien, lead communicator for the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC) and executive director of the Earthquake Country Alliance, both based at USC.
The SCEC established the drill in 2008 and has since coordinated these annual events to inform the public about earthquake preparedness. What initially started as a California-specific drill, using a magnitude 7.8 earthquake on the southern San Andreas Fault as the backdrop, expanded beyond California to 15 other states, as well as to British Columbia and Guam.
Several new U.S. states and territories, as well as new countries throughout the world, are participating for the first time this year: Arizona, Alaska and Washington state; the Southeast and Puerto Rico; and Italy and New Zealand.
“It’s amazing to see how quickly this has become a worldwide movement,” Benthien said. “ShakeOut is a fun and easy way for people, organizations and communities in many regions to get prepared now, together, before major earthquakes.”
Past drills have focused on familiarizing participants with the initial shock of an earthquake, using special effects, such as smoking buildings and volunteers enacting search and rescue. This year’s drill will emphasize the familiar procedure “drop, cover and hold on” — drop to the ground, take cover under a sturdy desk or table and hold on to it until the shaking stops.
Approximately 200 ShakeOut Ambassadors — staff members who have identified themselves as volunteers for the drill — and members of USC’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) will be present throughout the USC campuses to help facilitate the drill in their respective areas. The most recent CERT training cohort at USC was completed over the summer, with 34 new team members successfully graduating from the intensive training program. There are currently 304 CERT members at USC, representing departments and schools from the University Park, Health Sciences, Marina del Rey and Orange County campuses.
“They’re here to supplement our team,” Goldfarb said. “They serve the role of providing search and rescue, they do fire suppression, triage and first aid.”
He continued: “Our main goal is to educate people on what to do. It takes people being independently prepared to help everyone get through an earthquake. If nothing else, we want people to walk away knowing three things: drop, cover and hold on.”
To learn more about emergency preparedness at USC, visit emergencyprep.usc.edu/emergency/