In their attitudes about earthquakes, Southern California residents fall into three categories:
- The dreamers. "It'll never happen. . . . "
- The fatalists. "If it happens, it happens. . . . "
- The realists. "Better to be ready than sorry. . . . "
We've had warnings with three good tremors in recent months--in Palm Springs, the San Francisco Bay Area and near Eureka--and a steady stream of scientists' predictions.
My own attitude is to use a little bit of common sense. It's not so much a question of if it happens but of being ready when it happens.
Articles, programs, seminars and workshops tell us what to do before, during and after a quake of sizable magnitude. I've learned how to shut off the gas at the main valve because more destruction can result from fires than the quake.
I've taken advantage of the First Aid and Disaster Training offered by the Red Cross, knowing it could help us in any critical situation. I've learned to carry water and walking shoes in the trunk of the car in case the Big One hits when we're all dressed up and miles from home. I know, too, that it's important at home to have a two-week supply of water stored in plastic containers for every member of the family.
My emergency cupboard is stocked with canned foods and juices, paper towels, matches and a manual can opener.
There are no guarantees, they tell us, of help being at hand. If the telephones are down and the roads crisscrossed with hot wires and debris, you're on your own. With the freeways impassable in an area the size of Southern California, it will be every person for himself until help arrives.
The glass boxes we Californians live in are not earthquake-proof and could suddenly be exposed to the elements. Glass would crack and shatter, with brick chimneys being the first to topple. The tiny angel hanging on my sliding door not only prevents anyone from walking through the plate glass, but her daily tapping during small quakes and aftershocks is a gentle reminder of what could occur.
East, Drink and Be Wary
Dark thoughts often take over on a sleepless night: Will San Onofre withstand an eight pointer, or what if my husband is out of town on a business trip? What about our grandchildren, who live so close to the San Andreas fault? But that's like worrying about being on a sinking ship or getting hit on the freeway. Terrorists, tornadoes and toxic waste have replaced the Indians, epidemics and starvation faced by our ancestors. We face our problems and learn to cope. Eat, drink and be wary . . . but it doesn't hurt to be prepared.
My survival kit is packed and ready at my bedside. Besides the usual emergency items, such as jackets, Band-Aids, antibiotics and flashlights, it contains an extra pair of contact lenses and my husband's blood pressure medications. We keep sturdy shoes by the bed, too, so we won't cut our feet on broken glass.
Whether the Big One strikes tomorrow or in 50 years, it's still a Sword of Damocles hanging over Southern California. Scary? You bet, but not scary enough to make us want to flee to another state. The California life style is what we've chosen and love, and being earthquake-ready is fact of our life. It's living on the edge, and it comes with the territory.