Tuesday morning's earthquake was only a fraction as strong as the damaging Sylmar shock of 15 years ago. But the great Southern California quake that seismologists say can occur at any time over the next 30 to 50 years is certain to make even the 1971 experience seem minor indeed. Earthquakes are a reminder that California is an exciting place to live. Small earthquakes are a reminder to prepare for worse to come.
That means keeping on hand enough canned and dried foods and containers of water to provide for family needs when normal supplies might be unavailable in the days after a big quake. It means having fresh batteries for flashlights and portable radios, and emergency first-aid materials. It's a good idea to secure water heaters so that they can't shake loose, and to keep a wrench handy to turn off the valve on the gas meter if there should be a break in the line. Above all, everyone in a home should be drilled on safe evacuation procedures.
Simple precautions, and yet most of us tend to put off taking them. What happened at 2:21 a.m. on Tuesday was a gentle reminder about the wisdom of foresight.