The approximately 350 families who live in the Monte Nido Valley have successfully battled fires and floods in their four-square-mile community, located in the Santa Monica Mountains between Malibu and Calabasas.
But residents here say that the tranquility of the area's isolation can quickly turn to terror when a natural disaster cuts them off from the rest of the world.
So a good many of them--at least 100, it was estimated--turned out last Sunday for a neighborhood meeting on earthquake preparedness to learn how together they can survive the major earthquake that scientists predict will strike Southern California in the next 50 years.
"The possibility of us not being able to get out after a major earthquake is high," said Karen Moir, who organized the outdoor event at her home on Piuma Road and Crater Camp Drive.
Area residents have completed more than 100 questionnaires listing the number of people living in a household and telling whether horses, chain saws, four-wheel-drive vehicles or medical expertise can be shared in the aftermath of a major earthquake. Moir hopes to organize the community by street, with designated leaders who will assist neighbors and direct relief efforts should the area become inaccessible.
Participants, calling themselves Quake Busters, will contribute their tools, property and knowledge to help neighbors survive for as long as a week should an earthquake block the three roads leading in and out of the area, Moir said.
The effort has drawn praise from residents who survived a major fire in 1970 and a 1980 flood that left them stranded without gas, telephone service and electricity for three days.
Don Hood, a 16-year resident of the area who was trapped at his home during the flood, said he and his wife were fortunate to have enough food and water to survive the three-day ordeal. But the prospect of a fire after an earthquake really scares him, he said.
"We put in a spa, largely to have a 1,200-gallon water reservoir in case of a fire," Hood said.
Representatives of the Red Cross, the Los Angeles County Fire and Sheriff's departments answered residents' questions on how to prepare for an earthquake, and what to do after it hits.
A Calabasas firm sold survival kits that included enough brownie-like food bars, water and first-aid equipment for a family of five to survive three days after an earthquake.
"You can't depend on anything after a disaster," Karen Krzyska told someone interested in one of the $195 survival kits. "You don't even know if you will be able to get into your kitchen."
After a major earthquake, "emergency services will be spread pretty thin," agreed Battalion Chief Jerry Meehan, who answered questions at the meeting.
But, he said, residents here are probably better prepared than most in the county "because they realize they may have to fend for themselves."