If Supervisor Susan Golding needed help in drawing attention to plans for a countywide Earthquake Preparedness Day on Oct. 15, she received it Thursday, when a temblor rumbled through the Los Angeles Basin, causing deaths and damage.
The earthquake, which left San Diego virtually unscathed, hit three hours before a press conference Golding had scheduled to talk about earthquake preparedness.
Golding, chairwoman of the county's Earthquake Preparedness Committee, told reporters gathered at the Natural History Museum at Balboa Park that no one living in Southern California--and certainly not those living in San Diego--is safe from the threat of a major temblor.
'Not a Joke'
"It's not a joke. It's not funny," she said, pointing out that earthquake experts estimate that San Diego has a 10% chance of being hit by a major quake in the next year.
It's because of that ever-present danger, she said, that San Diegans need to make earthquake preparedness a routine in the workplace and at home.
Golding said many San Diego residents have the mistaken belief that Los Angeles--because it has been at the center of two large earthquakes in the last two decades--is the only place susceptible to severe quakes.
But Golding, again relying on information supplied by seismologists and geologists, said such belief rests on ground as shaky as the Elsinore Fault, the major fault line in the county which, in the last three years, has experienced a substantial increase in earthquakes measuring 3.0 or more on the Richter scale.
The point of Golding's comments was that, in the aftermath of a large earthquake, residents should be prepared to get by for 72 hours without help from anyone except themselves, as major roads, communication and life-supporting systems--such as those that supply food and water--could be collapsed, severely damaged or in a state of chaos.
"People can't depend on rescue agencies," she said, explaining that Earthquake Preparedness Day will highlight not only such things as evacuation plans at schools and businesses but also the value of having earthquake preparedness kits, which contain emergency items that could be used in the first 72 hours, such as a radio, extra batteries, flashlight, first aid kit, tools to turn off gas lines, water, fire extinguishers, food and water purification tablets.
Patrick L. Abbott, a San Diego State University geology professor, was also at the press conference.
He said that, although scientists have made great strides in studying earthquakes, such as knowing how they are caused and where they are likely to occur, scientists still can't answer the question of when they will happen.
"We're way behind the weatherman" in making predictions, he said.
"We live in earthquake country," Abbott said. "We must expect them." As part of the activities on Oct. 15, Abbott will lecture at the museum on "Earthquake History and Potential in the San Diego Area."
Thursday's quake caused insignificant damage in San Diego County. Although there were some reports of items falling off the shelves in some homes and of workers in downtown San Diego high-rise buildings passing a few anxious moments as pictures on the wall swayed, there seemed to be as many people who said they felt nothing at all.
Four San Diego County strike teams with 20 fire engines and 88 firefighters were on their way north within hours of the earthquake, dispatched at the request of the state Office of Emergency Services. They were told to turn back en route because they weren't needed.
Officials from San Diego Gas & Electric said there was no damage to their system and few calls from rattled customers. The utility offered its counterpart in Los Angeles--Southern California Edison--the use of personnel and equipment to help in the quake's aftermath, but they weren't needed either, SDG&E spokesman David Smith said.
Edison, however, asked SDG&E to put back in service a major transmission line that goes into Arizona, in case Edison needed it for backup power. SDG&E, which had taken the transmission line out of service for routine maintenance, agreed to the request.
Michael Runzler, spokesman for Pacific Bell, said the earthquake caused no disruption in the county's telephone service.
The quake was felt both at Camp Pendleton and at the San Onofre nuclear power plant in Northern San Diego County, but no damage was reported.
Staff Sgt. John Midgette, a Camp Pendleton spokesman, said the quake was felt throughout the sprawling base, but no damage or injuries were reported and base activities were not interrupted.
At San Onofre, both power units that were in operation remained in service. A third has been shut down for several weeks for refueling.
As required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, San Onofre operators declared an "unusual event" as soon as the quake hit, the lowest of four levels of emergency.
Inspectors determined by 9:45 a.m. that no damage had been inflicted, according to a spokesman for Southern California Edison, which runs the coastal plant.
Edison spokesman Bob Krauch said there had been no damage, no radiation released and no danger to the public or employees.
"All three units are built to withstand greater shocks than felt during today's event," he said.
Times staff writers Kathie Bozanich and Anthony Perry contributed to this report.