Earthquake Preparedness Tips
Monday, April 5, 2010
We'll talk about earthquake preparedness following the 7.2 magnitude quake that struck Baja, California, on Sunday.
Maureen Cavanaugh: Every year we have earthquake preparedness month. We have drills and we are given pamphlets and told to get ready. But when yesterday's earthquake went on just a little longer and was just a little stronger than we're used to. Some thoughts started to spring to mind, like what the heck am I supposed to do?
Many people ran outside, or just sat frozen in their seats, not a good idea according to earthquake safety officials.
This hour we'll be taking your calls about what you wish you had known yesterday about earthquake readiness.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. The earth has not stopped shaking in Southern California and Baja. At leave five earthquakes stronger than magnitude 5 and dozens of smaller quakes have been recorded since yesterday’s 7.2 quake south of Mexicali. And we’re told to expect more shaking in the next 48 to 72 hours. We’re talking about what we did right, and what we did wrong during yesterday’s earthquake. My guest – my two guests are – Ron Lane has been kind enough to stay with us. Ron Lane is director of the San Diego County Office of Emergency Services. And I’d like to welcome to our mix, Dr. Pat Abbott, is professor emeritus of geology at San Diego State University. Dr. Abbott, welcome.
DR. PAT ABBOTT (Professor Emeritus of Geology, San Diego State University): I’m glad to be here.
CAVANAUGH: Yes, you’re our resident earthquake specialist here and we really do appreciate it.
DR. ABBOTT: Well, that was a very enjoyable event yesterday.
CAVANAUGH: I’m sure it was for you. Now, Ron, we were just talking about some of the dos and don’ts and the wake up call that yesterday was. I think it’s still a little bit confusing for people, when is it that you should get out of a structure?
LANE: Well, the – you know, I’d also defer to Dr. Abbott but in our view, you want to get out of a structure if you feel that you’re not safe. If you’re in a structure that you don’t feel safe, then you should get out. But most homes and most – certainly, any major building downtown or whatever are built to withstand these types of earthquakes and you’re better off hunkering down in drop, cover and hold on inside that room where you’re at rather than evacuating.
CAVANAUGH: And Dr. Abbott.
DR. ABBOTT: Oh, indeed, I agree with what Ron is saying. And, you know, what I like people to do would be to – the places where you are all the time, the rooms of your house, the office, those places, visualize what would it be like in an earthquake there? Is there – The main point being, is there something that could fall on you? And for most people, as Ron says, the best thing to do is stay right there, get underneath that heavy table or desk or something because the danger is things falling on you. However, there are some things, as Ron says, is one, you don’t feel safe in, well, then have it be a planned event that, okay, when the shaking starts, I’m going right outside to a where? To a specific location or to another room, you know, immediately going to a place where you have already pre-thought is safe. But generally, you’re best off staying put. It’s kind of interesting, we hear what one – very few fatalities we’ve heard of here so far but one of them was a man who went running out of his house right into the street and got killed by…
DR. ABBOTT/CAVANAUGH: …a car…
CAVANAUGH: …right, right.
DR. ABBOTT: And had he dropped, held on and covered, he’d probably still be here.
CAVANAUGH: Well, I think, you know, Ron, what we learned yesterday that perhaps didn’t factor into a lot of the earthquake preparedness material that we get is panic. It was scary yesterday.
LANE: Right, and that’s why, you know, Dr. Abbott is always saying that what we’re used to in these five second quakes is not what we’re going to see on the big one, and I think yesterday was a good wake-up call. People – One way to avoid panic is preparation to the extent that you’ve already planned all the places you’ve been, the places where you spend a lot of time, what you’re going to do, and you practice the drill of – with your family of the drop, cover and hold on, then it will be instinctive, and that’s what we hope people get out of yesterday.
CAVANAUGH: We’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727 or you can go online and post your comment at KPBS.org/thesedays. Let’s hear from Steve calling us from San Diego. Good morning, Steve. Welcome to These Days.
STEVE (Caller, San Diego): Hello. I’m sorry. I’ve just been…
CAVANAUGH: Hi, Steve.
STEVE: Hi. I’m actually calling out to some of your listeners.
STEVE: There’s a large population of ex-patriots of Americans and Mexicans that live right at the epicenter on the Rio Hardy which is roughly 43 kilometers south. So if you Google it, it’s almost exactly where the epicenter was. And we understand that substantial damage has been – has occurred there. What we haven’t heard is been able to contact anybody. If there’s anyone out there listening who knows of any potential damages or, more importantly, any lives that may be threatened, most people still listen to KPBS. I listen to it when I’m vacationing there. I can catch the Calexico station that you broadcast from while I’m at the Rio Hardy, so if anyone is listening, if they could try and communicate with your station to let us know how they’re doing.
CAVANAUGH: That’s – I understand, Steve, and I’ll give the number again. It’s 1-888-895-5727. The call-in number from Mexico is 619-287-8100. And I think part of the problem in getting any information from there, we heard from Vicente Calderon, the reporter we spoke with last hour, power’s not working. Cell phone service is spotty at best. So we may not know what’s going on in those regions for another – at least another few hours. Let’s take another call. Laura is calling us from San Diego. Good morning, Laura. Welcome to These Days.
LAURA (Caller, San Diego): Good morning. Thank you for taking my call. You actually just addressed the question that I had. I’m a renter of an older home, built in the early 1900s in San Diego. We’ve only lived there about six months, and so an earthquake and our first thought was, oh, my gosh, we don’t know if this house will make it, so we ran out. So in listening to your program, I’m definitely understanding that that was probably not the best thing to do. But kind of just curious about kind of how do we find out how structurally sound our home is? Or are we just worrying too much about it?
CAVANAUGH: Oh, well, listen, I think that’s a great question. Dr. Abbott, how can somebody, if they’re concerned about the structural integrity of their home, what can they do about that?
DR. ABBOTT: Well, a number of things. One, of course, you could call in a structural engineer or somebody to assess it but, no, I don’t know for a home that old, is it on a cement slab on the ground? Or is it on little walls, what we call cripple walls, it’s raised up off of the ground?
LAURA: It – Yeah, it actually is raised up off of the ground. It sits on top of actually our garage. It’s kind of an interesting building and it’s – half of it’s on the ground because we’re kind of on a slanted hill so it’s like our backyard is on the ground and then our front, like our front rooms, are above – built above our garage.
DR. ABBOTT: Well, here’s the basic principle on these things. The big problem with earthquakes—and visualize Haiti in January—you know, you have vertical walls and you have horizontal roofs and floors. It’s keeping the vertical and the horizontal tied together. Now some of these 1900-built homes sitting up on these cripple walls aren’t supported underneath and a lot of doing the support work is not necessarily hard. We’ve done this to my mother’s house and that’s, you know, a lot of angle iron, putting in some other wood supports and screwing those together and basically tie the vertical elements, walls, to the horizontal elements securely because what you want, if the whole building holds together, then you’re into the mode of just protecting yourself from falling objects. And on this business about running outside, it also depends on what you’re running out to. If you have power lines right out in front, well, you certainly don’t run out there, or a eucalyptus tree that have limbs that fall off it real easily. In other words, what is – what’s going to fall on you if you go outside? If it’s a big open grass area and that’s all there is, a big open grass area, sure, go ahead and run outside. But the big thing is, what’s going to fall on you where you are? Or what’s going to fall on you where you’re going to? And think it in advance so that you don’t have to process it, you know, the next time the earth starts shaking.
CAVANAUGH: Sure, exactly. Thank you, Laura, for the call. Ron, I know that you can’t stay with us much longer, but I would be interested in knowing before we say goodbye, what has your Office of Emergency Services learned from this earthquake yesterday? Any lessons that you can take from it?
LANE: Well, we’re going to do the assessments now but it’s definitely a reminder to us just how important the message of disaster preparedness is to the public and to make sure that we get the word out how important it is to not only prepare for earthquakes but also for wildfires and everything else. We have a website called readysandiego.org that your listeners can go to and get everything that they need for family disaster plans or any information they might need after yesterday’s event.
CAVANAUGH: And thank you, Ron, so much for speaking with us today.
LANE: Thank you.
CAVANAUGH: That was Ron Lane, Director of the San Diego County Office of Emergency Services. And my guest remaining is Dr. Pat Abbott, he’s professor emeritus of geology at San Diego State University, and a person who’s well versed on all things about earthquakes. We’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. I just want to ask you, Dr. Abbott, on Laura’s question, on the second floor of a building or on higher floors, I was interested in the fact that you could still feel that rolling motion that characterized this earthquake and I was surprised by that because I thought perhaps on a second or a third or a fourth floor, you’d just feel some shaking, not that earth rolling motion. Why do – why were we able to feel that on higher floors?
DR. ABBOTT: Well, you – the earth moving, of course, is what’s getting things started.
DR. ABBOTT: But, you know, buildings have their own frequencies and, of course, the taller a building is the longer it will take to sway back and forth. Now at the peak of that swaying back and forth, you might not feel the rolling motion as much because the side-to-side motion would, you know, overwhelm…
CAVANAUGH: On very tall buildings…
DR. ABBOTT: …your senses. But on a second story, third story, yes, you’re still feeling that. Visualize if you were on a boat on the ocean and you were right at the water level or you were up in a little cabin up off of the water a little bit? You’d still be rocking back and forth as those ocean waves went underneath you, and the kind of seismic waves we had there yesterday, the Rayleigh waves, moved very similar to ocean waves.
CAVANAUGH: Interesting. Let’s take another call. Tony is calling us from Mexicali. And, Tony, welcome to These Days.
TONY (Caller, Mexicali): Hi. How are you?
CAVANAUGH: Great. Thank you for calling.
TONY: Oh, thank you guys for talking about this. You know, I’m from San Diego and we always get our little small jokes now and again, and I decided to come and see my grandmother for Easter and I got one crazy Easter basket.
CAVANAUGH: Yeah. Yes, you certainly did. Are any of your eggs unbroken?
TONY: Well, you know, the funny thing is that, you know, when I spoke to people back in San Diego, you know, they all felt it and they saw things shaking but for us here, it was really something that you see on TV. You know, everything was shaking. Anything that was hanging on the wall or on the shelf was in the air or already broken on the ground which, you know, brings me to my point, is really knowing even if you haven’t made a plan, really knowing at least what to do next or during the event is really critical because, you know, for us, it lasted a good 45 seconds which seems like an eternity…
TONY: …you know, when, you know, everything’s falling all around you. So for us, it was just a matter of kind of getting out of the house, out of the glass, you know, and, of course, I have my elderly grandmother with me, and just getting somewhere in the carport that was safe. Because like the gentleman said earlier, you know, you run out into the street, you get hit by a car or you get electrocuted by a downed power line.
CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you a question, Tony. Did you – Are you still in Mexicali?
TONY: I’m actually in a very, very long line to cross the border because only one border crossing is open at the time…
CAVANAUGH: What kind of…
TONY: …you know.
CAVANAUGH: What kind of aftershocks have you been feeling?
TONY: Well, we – Obviously, everyone’s – I mean, everybody slept outside last night, and throughout the night we had about three or four pretty strong aftershocks. From what I understand, the biggest one was a 5.3, which was at about five in the morning. And, you know, you sleep with your shoes on, really, because you don’t know when it’s going to keep going. Like I mentioned earlier, I was taking a nap when the big one hit and, you know, I felt it and I thought, ah, it’ll end in a second. And, you know, ten seconds into it, it wasn’t ending and it was becoming much, much more violent.
CAVANAUGH: Right. Tony, thanks so much for the call. I really appreciate it. And that sleeping outside seems to be something that people just instinctively do after a major earthquake like that. It would – If we had a 7.2 centered closer to San Diego, do you think, Dr. Abbott, you would see some of that here?
DR. ABBOTT: People sleeping outside?
DR. ABBOTT: Oh, I certainly think so because there’s a comfort and a safety in it. Our climate’s mild enough.
DR. ABBOTT: You don’t have to pay a huge penalty. And you’re definitely safer out there. And particularly down there, if some of those buildings had already suffered some fracturing, well then it wouldn’t take as big an earthquake to cause further damage so, to me, that’s an excellent precautionary note, not to mention the fact it’s probably a good collegial kind of a sharing of things with neighbors and all, which is probably a good psychological support for people.
CAVANAUGH: Now, I had a caller yesterday during our special broadcast who asked, well, you know, if this earthquake, this 7.2 earthquake, had been centered closer to San Diego, what kind of damage do you think we would have sustained?
DR. ABBOTT: Well, you know, Tony just did a very nice job of describing that. Now, the kinds of – let’s go back to the kinds of earthquakes we usually feel. The little jolt…
DR. ABBOTT: …the thing that lasts for a few seconds, that’s just very high frequency energy. Maybe it’s ten seismic waves per second kind of a thing and that throws things off of shelves and just rattles and shakes everything bigtime. That kind of energy doesn’t travel far and that’s why we didn’t really feel that. All we got were the – The main thing we felt, that is, are those rolling Rayleigh waves and the bigger an earthquake is, the more percentage of the energy goes into doing those long period seismic waves, and the farther away you are from the earthquake, the more of that you feel. So when Tony describes like total chaos there, that’s it because you’re getting every kind of seismic – well, you’re getting all the short period seismic waves.
CAVANAUGH: I see.
DR. ABBOTT: Very different experience for us. They wouldn’t have had that same nice rolling motion that we enjoyed.
CAVANAUGH: Right, so they would’ve gotten the jolt and the rolling at the same time.
DR. ABBOTT: Not as much the rolling.
DR. ABBOTT: Because the rolling takes some distance to…
CAVANAUGH: I see.
DR. ABBOTT: Or visualize, say, a rock. Throw a rock and have it hit the water.
DR. ABBOTT: There’s chaos at the point of impact and then the nice smooth waves aren’t right at the impact point, they’re moving out from it.
CAVANAUGH: I understand. Let’s take another call. David is calling us from Rio Hardy in Mexico. And, David, welcome to These Days.
DAVID (Caller, Rio Hardy, Mexico): Ah, thanks for having me.
CAVANAUGH: You’re welcome.
DAVID: We just left the Rio Hardy actually. We were just finally able to get out of there.
CAVANAUGH: Uh-huh. And…?
DAVID: It was pretty crazy yesterday. We had – our garage collapsed. Luckily, our boat wasn’t in it, it was on the water. But the entire place flooded as well. So getting the boat out of the water proved to be a chore that we weren’t able to do until today and it took quite a bit of mud and effort by a great group of people to get it out.
CAVANAUGH: And help me out because I don’t really know where Rio Hardy is. Where is that in terms of the epicenter of this quake that you’ve been able to understand?
DAVID: From what – we haven’t gotten a lot of news reports.
DAVID: Just what we’ve been listening to since we left there 15 minutes ago.
DAVID: But from the sounds of it, I mean, a earlier caller had mentioned that it was the epicenter. I had heard that it was 5 miles north of Rio Hardy.
DAVID: But I’m not sure.
CAVANAUGH: Wow. Okay, so – And your experience of the quake, was it something that was really frightening?
DAVID: Oh, very frightening. I was there with my family and we were standing on our patio and the place started rocking like you can’t believe. I looked at the two cars bouncing up and down on the tires and then I watched an entire brick garage collapse in front of us. And then the patio we were on underneath us split like a cheesy earthquake movie about six feet, just split wide open all the way along our – the shoreline.
CAVANAUGH: But you and your family are okay.
DAVID: We’re okay and we got some great people going up and down the river checking on everybody, and from what we understand nobody’s hurt. There’s a lot of damage to, you know, there’s some houses that are in the water but no injuries that we’ve heard of.
CAVANAUGH: I want to thank you so much for calling in and telling us about it. And could you hold on the line for just a moment? One of the producers would like to speak with you, David. Thank you so much for calling in. Professor Abbott, you have been on this show before and you’ve been contrasting what happened in Haiti with what happened in Chile, Chile, of course, being the much larger earthquake in terms of measurement. What is the contrast between Haiti and what happened here south of Mexicali this weekend?
DR. ABBOTT: Well, now the Haiti earthquake was a 7.0 magnitude. This, the number right now we’re looking at is 7.2, that’s going to be double the size. So Mexicali took a hit twice as hard as Haiti and look at that incredible difference in building responses and correspondingly then death tolls. I mean, that – those characteristics of those death tolls underlines the significance of building properly more dramatically and emphatically than anything else I can think of.
CAVANAUGH: Could it also have been the population density as well in Haiti, and Port-au-Prince?
DR. ABBOTT: That’s another factor, but as we hear more and more about the way they do build buildings, I mean, very frankly, it’s virtually criminal – I mean, I’m using this word…
DR. ABBOTT: …harshly but, I mean, to allow buildings to be built that way that things like that could be built where they’re using things like concrete blocks with open holes in them, like to – so you don’t have to have as much concrete to pour out a slab? And, you know, things of this cost-cutting kinds of things to erect big, heavy cement floors and then not support them with the verticals. I mean, that’s just – that’s a disaster readymade.
CAVANAUGH: Let’s take another call. Jeff is calling from El Centro. Good morning, Jeff, and welcome to These Days.
JEFF (Caller, El Centro): Hi.
JEFF: Yeah, I’m just – the guy in Rio Hardy that – the epicenter was right there close to it.
JEFF: Cerro Prieto Geothermal. They think it was probably causing some of that. They’re not reinjecting the geothermal water that they’re pulling out and it seems to be causing a lot of extra earthquake activity in the area.
CAVANAUGH: Is that what people are saying in that area?
JEFF: Oh, they’ve been talking about that for quite a few years and we’ve had quite a bit of earthquake activity from that area in particular.
CAVANAUGH: Well, let me get a response, if I can, from Dr. Abbott. Would that have anything to do with triggering an earthquake?
DR. ABBOTT: Let me giver you two responses here. First, just from the broad geologic standpoint. The basic tectonics of this area is, of course, the Baja, California peninsula is being pulled away and that’s making this – the basin. And as that crust is thinned there, magma rises up, so the reason you have the volcanos there is because of the faulting to begin with. That’s the broad scale. Now, secondarily, does pumping water underground under pressure – we have – There’s three ways that humans cause earthquakes. I should – Excuse me, not cause, trigger earthquakes. Whenever we build a dam, you start impounding the water behind the dam and the water seeps underneath, you always have earthquakes. That disastrous one in China two years ago may have been triggered by the dam building and water impoundment there. We’ve got created earth – triggered earthquakes by underground nuclear explosions at Nevada, and the third way, and easiest way is pumping water underground under pressure. Now I don’t know what the in and out of the Cerro Prieta Geothermal Power Plant is – especially pumping of the hot water, running it through a turbine to generate electricity. I would hope those things would be running as a steady state system, that the water you would pull out would be reinjected and you would be as – you know, you’re trying to – It’s the heat you want, not the water. And – but does pumping water underground or pulling it out, can that cause earth – trigger earthquakes? Yes, it can. However, this is an area that has had these kinds of earthquakes long before there were geothermal power plants. And so the last time San Diego was shaken this bad was from an earthquake basically that same size in the 1890s over in the Laguna Salada area so, in other words, this is not an unusual kind of an earthquake so I can’t put the ultimate cause on it to be geothermal. It is natural but you can advance the timing possibly by human activities.
CAVANAUGH: That is – that’s really fascinating. I hadn’t heard that before at all. Now, I know that you have to leave us, Dr. Abbott, but I want to ask you because I know you enjoyed the earthquake yesterday personally because of your specialty and I also want to know what are you going to be looking for in the days ahead? What do you want to find out about this quake that we don’t know now?
DR. ABBOTT: Well, you know, first off, about enjoying it. I…
DR. ABBOTT: …to just to not just appear like some kind of weirdo, let me state…
DR. ABBOTT: …it this way. Since I’ve already taken the earthquake preparations…
DR. ABBOTT: …I don’t have to worry about the earthquake anymore than I have to worry about a rainstorm because I have my roof taken care of. In other words, prepare in advance and then enjoy the event.
CAVANAUGH: Fair enough.
DR. ABBOTT: And so what do we hope to learn from this? Well, of course, probably the most significant thing we would learn from it is to go look at the buildings that did fail, did have problems, and see if something failed that we hadn’t suspected before because if we have then that should be addressed in the building code. And, hopefully, nothing new failed, in other words, that we….
DR. ABBOTT: …don’t have new lessons to learn but if something – we have to look at those things carefully and implement them into the codes so we don’t suffer the same fate twice.
CAVANAUGH: I remember you saying in a previous show, we learn something from every earthquake.
DR. ABBOTT: That’s correct.
CAVANAUGH: Something that we didn’t know before about what can fail or what could shake or just we just didn’t have the knowledge before.
DR. ABBOTT: Well, and, as a professor, I’ve got to give the people of Southern California and northern Baja, California, I’m going to give them a grade of ‘A’ for how they’ve handled this. No significant building collapses, minor injuries. You’ve got to have some damages but I mean in terms of that much energy being released on this area, I would’ve thought we’d have paid a heavier price and I think that’s got to be a compliment to our building codes and to the people of this region.
CAVANAUGH: Well, I want to thank you so much for speaking with – I know you’re a very busy man today. You’ve got a lot of appointments. Thanks for coming in and speaking with us.
DR. ABBOTT: My pleasure.
CAVANAUGH: I’ve been speaking with Dr. Pat Abbott. He is professor emeritus of geology at San Diego State University. He has to leave but this program is not ending. We’re going to be welcoming new guests and continuing to take your calls at 1-888-895-5727 as our discussion about Sunday’s magnitude 7.2 quake continues right here on These Days on KPBS.
CAVANAUGH: Welcome back. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. And we’re talking about the earthquake that we sustained yesterday. We are happy to report no serious damage reported in San Diego, some damage reported in Baja and Mexicali and in the Imperial Valley as well. We’ve been talking about all aspects of this earthquake, getting ready for it, what it felt like for people, and, of course, some of this damage report that’s now coming in from Baja and from the Imperial County. We’ve been taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. And I’d like to welcome two new guests to These Days. Chris Marek is chief officer for Communications & Development for the American Red Cross of San Diego and Imperial Counties. And, Chris, good morning.
CHRIS MAREK (Chief Officer, Communications & Development, American Red Cross, San Diego and Imperial Counties): Good morning.
CAVANAUGH: Nancy King is a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey. Good morning, Nancy, and thank you for being with us today.
NANCY KING (Geophysicist, U.S. Geological Survey): Good morning.
CAVANAUGH: Now, as I said, we’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. But, Chris, I’d like to ask before we take a caller, what services is the Red Cross being – is providing in Imperial County? What services are being called upon?
MAREK: At this point, we are responsible for Imperial County. It falls under our jurisdiction. We are the San Diego-Imperial County Chapter. We’ve been in constant communication with our folks out there since the event happened yesterday. At first, it was just like in any emergency situation, information, and getting the most accurate information is always a little bit challenging and it took a couple hours until we had a good feel for what was happening on the ground there. At this point, we were immediately requested yesterday to provide some sheltering assistance. By the time that assistance got out there, it was no longer needed. People had actually found other arrangements and decided that they didn’t want sheltering. But we do, too, have two full standing teams ready to supply any sheltering, and at this point it’s still – they’re still in the assessment mode.
MAREK: We’re still trying to figure out exactly what type of damage has been sustained and in situations like this sometimes people go back into their homes and into their apartment buildings before the city engineers have had a chance to actually clear them. So it could be that we may have some other future buildings and structures that aren’t safe but at this point we have not been asked to open up any shelters.
CAVANAUGH: Now, Nancy, we just spoke with Dr. Pat Abbott who expressed a certain amount of surprise and happiness that an earthquake of this magnitude did not seem to cause more damage in this area. Did that surprise you as well?
KING: Well, I’m not an engineer. Earthquakes of magnitude 7 do have the potential to cause damage and there was damage in Mexicali. We’re very happy that there wasn’t damage, more damage than there was. But I’m not surprised that there wasn’t extensive damage in Southern California.
CAVANAUGH: Now what are some of the interesting bits of information you can share with us about the earthquake?
KING: Well, there appears to have been a foreshock sequence. There were magnitude 3s and 4s starting on Wednesday…
KING: …near the epicenter. And, of course, when we – earthquakes do cluster in time and space and sometimes the earthquakes go on and then stop, other times they’re a foreshock series. And you don’t know it’s a foreshock until the big earthquake occurs. In this case, there was a foreshock, of course. After a big earthquake, there is a certain probability that that will be followed by an even larger earthquake but we’re more than 18 hours since the magnitude 7.2 so the chances that this earthquake is going to be followed by something even bigger has already dropped by 50%.
CAVANAUGH: Now what about aftershocks, Nancy? Do they travel on the same fault line or do they radiate into different areas of – different faults?
KING: They tend to outline the fault on which the earthquake occurred. But sometimes they – sometimes the big event triggers aftershocks in other faults as well.
KING: And that appears to be happening on the southern San Jacinto fault in Southern California, west of the Salton Sea.
CAVANAUGH: This fault that we’re talking about that sustained the 7.2.
KING: That’s the Laguna Salada fault.
CAVANAUGH: Oh, I see. I see. So…
KING: But we are not – we are not 100% sure of that. The aftershocks suggest that that’s the case, however, until we get geologists on the ground who will actually look for surface faulting, we won’t be 100% confident of that. And geologists are en route now to check that out.
CAVANAUGH: So this is actually turning out to be a rather interesting earthquake.
KING: Yes, they’re all interesting.
CAVANAUGH: Okay. Let’s take a call. We are taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. And Lloyd is calling from Mexicali. Good morning, Lloyd, thank you for calling.
LLOYD (Caller, Mexicali): Yes, good morning. I was at our vacation home yesterday in San Felipe, about 115 miles south of Mexicali on Mexican Highway 5. It rock and rolled pretty good down there. But this morning I left San Felipe at quarter to eight to drive up to my home in Alpine and I – at about kilometer 46 south of Mexicali, there’s quite a bit of buckling of the highway and flooding in that area.
LLOYD: And you can really see, you know, surface fissures in the pavement and sometimes the pavement is buckled up, you know. I would say that the highest buckling I went over was about maybe 15 inches but it’s an area for about 15 kilometers you really have to tread slowly through there. And now I’m in the world’s longest line to cross the east border crossing.
CAVANAUGH: That’s what we – You’re the second call we’ve gotten from that, so it must be quite a line, indeed. Let me ask you, Lloyd, when you felt this shaking yesterday, did it concern you? Were you frightened for yourself and your family?
LLOYD: Yes, we were because probably mostly because our vacation home down there is a fifth-wheel RV parked inside what’s called a ramada, which is a structure over it, you know, with a deck where the roof of that structure doubles as the deck?
LLOYD: And it’s mounted on columns and both the structure and the RV got going pretty good. So my wife and I, we definitely ran outside into the clear.
LLOYD: As it turned out, there was no damage to our property or any of our neighbors, all of whom are U.S. citizens in that area, but it was – we definitely felt it.
CAVANAUGH: Well, thanks for calling in. I really do appreciate it, Lloyd, thank you. Nancy, I’m wondering, what causes that kind of buckling.
KING: Well, without having seen it, it could either be – it could be faulting that’s reached the surface but more likely it’s what we call ground failure caused by shaking.
CAVANAUGH: Ground failure, so the ground just falls away.
KING: Well, it does – it loses its strength during the shaking and that can cause buckling or small cracks opening up.
CAVANAUGH: I see. Let’s take another call. Richard is calling us from Escondido. Good morning, Richard, and welcome to These Days.
RICHARD (Caller, Escondido): Thank you. I originally came from the east coast. I’ve been on the west coast for about six years. I came down to California from Washington state. And I’m disabled, I use a cane, have a heart problem, high blood pressure. I usually carry all my medications with me but it’s hard to go up and down stairs. What am I supposed to do during and after an earthquake?
CAVANAUGH: Well, I really do want to get Chris in on this as the chief officer of Communications for the American Red Cross. Can you help Richard, Chris?
MAREK: Well, there are a number of things that we try to get everyone to do in this situation in terms of preparedness, and one of those things is to prepare yourself with enough food and water and supplies to be able to sustain yourself in a situation like this for up to 72 hours. That’s traditionally, as we’ve seen in Haiti and even back to Katrina in different situations, in emergency times and certain episodes that people have got to be able to have enough supplies to maintain their current situation and be able to shelter in place for up to 72 hours, so that’s food, water, the basic necessities that you would need. Beyond that, we always, and we actually sell those here, but is a four-person or a two-person or a one-person disaster pack, and those have different items in it that can assist you as well during a time like that. It has a hand-crank radio that allows you to hear what’s going on and if there is shelters available, things like that. There are a number of things, and if viewers want to go to our website, it’s preparesandiego.org, that’s a great place to start. We have a checklist that you can go through and take a look at all the different items that you should have, and have both in your car, in your home and at work in case of any situation that you might get caught in.
CAVANAUGH: Is there anything especially for people who are disabled? Any kind of a network of people to check in or something of that nature for people who have physical disabilities in an emergency situation like that?
MAREK: There are a number of different agencies and it really depends on the situation where they are and where they’re located, but if that caller wanted to call me, I can definitely have them – and they can call the Red Cross directly and we can take care of that and help them with those types of things.
CAVANAUGH: Okay, so, Richard, a call to the Red Cross of San Diego and Imperial Counties might actually be of great assistance to you the next time this happens. Veronica is calling us from El Centro. Good morning, Verconica. Welcome to These Days.
VERONICA (Caller, El Centro): Hi. Good morning. We just had a little aftershock right here as I was waiting on the line.
VERONICA: Our question is our cable didn’t go out or anything like that but there was nothing from the Emergency Broadcast System as to what we were supposed to do during the earthquake. We’re just wondering what the breakdown, what happened, why we didn’t get any information when the quake hit.
CAVANAUGH: That’s a very good question. Thank you for calling in with that, Veronica. Either Nancy or Chris, would you like to take that on, about why no Emergency Broadcast alert?
MAREK: You know, I couldn’t take a guess on that right now. All I do know is that one of the things that did occur was that the Imperial County Office of Emergency Services was severely impacted when that did – when the event happened yesterday and they were not able to be in their office at all so they had to relocate to the police station. I believe it took them almost two and a half hours or two hours to get over there and get everything set up, so that could’ve been, you know, part of the delay but I – this is the first I’ve heard of that, so I’m really not sure.
CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you for that call, and we’ll try to find out, Veronica. Thanks very much. Another question for you, Chris, if I may, a caller wanted to know—and this is a really good question—how long – Okay, so suppose you have your emergency pack in the back of your closet all set to go for the 72 hours with food, it has water in there, how long can you save tap water for? How – and it’ll still be good to drink? Is there any cutoff date for that?
MAREK: You mean, if you had actually…
MAREK: …put tap water into a, you know…
CAVANAUGH: Exactly, you’ve got it all in a little container.
MAREK: Well, we traditionally tell people not to do something like that in a situation, especially when an emergency happens.
MAREK: You don’t know if the pipes have been contaminated or anything like that.
CAVANAUGH: Oh, good point.
MAREK: But what we do say is that, you know, you should have on hand bottled water that has not been opened…
MAREK: …and quite a bit of that. That’s the best way to do it because it has been sealed and it is protected. But if you’ve actually filled up bottles yourself…
MAREK: …those can actually go bad pretty quickly.
CAVANAUGH: Oh, really?
MAREK: Within less than three or four days. So it’s best to actually get them where they’re pre-sealed and the air has been taken out and those can last you quite some time.
CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you for that. That’s good information. I didn’t realize that. So don’t fill up with tap water. Get some bottled water to save. Marci is calling us from Hillcrest. Good morning, Marci. Welcome to These Days.
MARCI (Caller, Hillcrest): Hi. Yeah. I originally – Thanks for taking my call. I originally called to regale you about my story but now that we’re on the subject, I have a question for the two people that are on right now. What happens when you – I mean, I know what to do to prepare. I’ve been through lots of earthquakes. I’ve lived in San Francisco and San Diego all my life. How about your pets? We have three cats so I know what to do to prepare for myself and I have the earthquake kit, I put some canned food for our cats in there but is there something that you can tell the listeners about that would be able to help them prepare for their pets?
CAVANAUGH: That’s an interesting question. Thank you, Marci. Again, I’m going to direct this to Chris. Anything that we should know about pets in these situations?
MAREK: Yes, we actually, as we all learned through Katrina…
MAREK: …that a lot of people will not leave their homes unless they can take their pets with them and especially they would rather shelter in place than to actually go somewhere else. We do offer first aid for pets at the San Diego Red Cross, and we have a class on that. We also have, on our website, a list of things that you should prepare for your pet and just the same way you would prepare for yourself for up to 72 hours, you need to do the same thing for your pets. That includes medications and things like that as well. So those are some of the things that we want to make sure that people understand that you – it’s a very good question. I’m glad she asked that because a lot of people tend to take care of themselves and forget about their pets and then they end up using supplies that were meant for themselves to sustain their pets and that depletes their supply very quickly.
CAVANAUGH: Now, Nancy King, you mentioned in a previous answer that when you get people on the ground there to do the inspections, what kinds of inspections does the U.S. Geological Survey do after an event like this?
KING: Well, there’s three main lines of investigation. One is classical geology and that’s what’s underway right now, where either from a helicopter or boots on the ground, people walk the fault, fly over the fault, and look for surface ruptures. That is, in a big earthquake like this, we expect the fault slip to have reached the surface and geologists will go out and map it. When we see that on the Laguna Salada fault, we will then be 100% confident that this earthquake was on that fault.
CAVANAUGH: I see.
KING: Then, of course, there’s the seismicity. We keep locating and assigning magnitudes to aftershocks. And then we look for surface deformation either from space-borne imagery or using the global positioning system, and those investigations are also underway as well.
CAVANAUGH: Now is there a time, a period of time, when you will not send people into that area on the ground because there’s still a danger of powerful aftershocks?
KING: Well, people try to go – people try to get out there as soon as possible.
KING: Now when the earthquake is in Mexico, there’s a certain amount of protocol to be observed before you can go to Mexico.
KING: And we need to have requests from our Mexican colleagues before we go in and help them. But we already have relationships with these people that have been standing for years so they welcome our help and we’re happy to give what we can.
CAVANAUGH: We are taking your calls about the earth – yesterday’s earthquake, 1-888-895-5727. If you can’t get through on our lines, please post your comments at KPBS.org/thesedays. Robert is calling from Calexico. And good morning, Robert. Welcome to These Days.
ROBERT (Caller, Calexico): Hi, welcome. Thank you for taking my call there.
CAVANAUGH: You’re welcome.
ROBERT: I was actually working right in the downtown area, which is where the majority of the damage happened. And the one thing I did want to mention, I know everybody’s talked about preparedness and everybody’s talked about how the IID wasn’t doing their job and, you know, it took them time to get the power back on. The one thing I would like to point out is the law enforcement in our community, how fast they reacted and how fast they actually got out there, you know. And they were calming people down and evacuating people that really didn’t need to be there, you know, just keeping the business owners and the people that were working there, not to stand by while they just, you know, calmed everybody down, giving first aid to people that needed it, and just pushing everybody out, out of the area, you know, getting them to a much safer place. And that was, I believe, was a lot of thanks to the U.S. Border Patrol.
CAVANAUGH: Tell us…
CAVANAUGH: Robert, I wonder, can you tell us what the scene was down there yesterday? Did a lot of people need some assistance?
ROBERT: The majority was the more elderly people that were kind of scared and it was mostly just a big state of panic was what it was. People were crying, people were running around, a lot of people were out in the streets looking for their children, you know, that might’ve got separated from them. And it was just a big mob of people in the middle of the street, just right in the middle of the busy downtown area there, just crying and in a state of panic. Everybody’s grabbing their cell phones trying to call home, trying to call sons, daughters, wives, you know, etcetera. And not being able to get through, it was just a constant state of panic. And everybody just froze there, you know, in the middle of the street, you know, while everything’s going on and we’re having aftershocks and nobody’s really thinking. And it, you know, even myself, you know, I was just standing there thinking, okay, what’s going to happen now, what’s going to happen now? And it wasn’t until, you know, the Border Patrol comes through and they’re like, hey, if you don’t need to be here, you know, go home. You know, get in your vehicles, go home. You know, let’s get out of the area. There’s a lot of windows here, there’s a lot of power lines here, you know, you guys need to move out. And that’s when it dawned on me, like, oh, hey, you know what, that’s right. You know, we need to get to a safer place. I mean, everybody was just in a constant state of shock.
CAVANAUGH: Robert, thank you so much for your call, and I think, Chris, that that’s a very powerful statement on how people are going to be in a situation of shock and panic and by planning ahead, you can at least mitigate that in a sense.
MAREK: That’s very true. I mean, one of the things that we always battle even just right now is the fact that people don’t want to think about the things that could happen to them.
MAREK: It’s very tough to sit there and say, well, if this happened, I have to have this. You know, that we just don’t traditionally – human beings don’t like to think about the bad things. We like to think about the good things, and that’s a good way to live your life. But it also can help you and just as we have insurance for auto, home and health, this is another form of insurance that people need to have for themselves, and that’s that insurance just in case an emergency does happen that’s out of their control. And Mother Nature has a way of just picking the most inopportune times to make things happen in our lives.
CAVANAUGH: You know, Chris, this may be an unfair question for you with the Red Cross but I would imagine that the Red Cross is going to be a stakeholder at the table during emergency preparedness discussions and maybe talking about this. What is it about cell phone service that seems to just break down when you need it the most? We heard that there were cell phone disruptions in Imperial County, cell phone disruptions in northern Mexico, and even some cell phone disruptions here in San Diego. Is that becoming an increasing problem during emergencies?
MAREK: It does tend to become a problem. I mean, it’s one of the things people – we’ve all forgotten about our landlines and the other thing that we’ve all done is we’ve put the phone numbers into our phones but we never remember the phone number.
MAREK: And if we run out of battery juice and our phones go dead, most people don’t have any way to recall some of the most important numbers of friends, family, things like that that they need. We always tell people to write those things down and put them in their purse or in their wallet, put down their top five or ten phone numbers and they’re written there in case they have to dial from a landline that traditionally doesn’t go down because they’re undergrounded most of them, or some of them are undergrounded these days. But the structure is a little bit more sound sometimes for the landline phones. The cell towers tend to go down. It’s going to happen. I mean, they’re not built for, you know, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake. They’re built for a little bit less than that so we – you’re definitely going to see cell service become sporadic during any of these times.
CAVANAUGH: We have time for one more call. Lee is calling from Lakeside. Good morning, Lee. Welcome to These Days.
LEE (Caller, Lakeside): Hi, Maureen. How are you?
CAVANAUGH: I’m doing great, thank you.
LEE: Thanks for having me. I’ve got a cute little antidote (sic) about yesterday. We were having a big Easter celebration at our house. Had quite a few people over there, probably about 20 adults and there were, oh, probably 10 children, ranging from infants to 12-year-olds. And there were some of us in the house when the earthquake happened, so we were yelling everybody get outside, and we’re gathering children as they go on out and we get outside for the – for our celebration and we had a large – we had quite a few of these steel – or, these sturdy folding tables and canopies…
LEE: …and chairs and so on set up outside. So everybody’s very excited and we’re looking around, counting heads, you know, seeing where all the kids are.
LEE: And, of course, everybody’s asking where’s Charlie? Where’s Charlie? My seven-year-old. We look over, he’s under the table.
LEE: We just got to give our education system some credit because we didn’t teach him that. He – If you want to know about what to do in an earthquake, you might ask your first grader.
CAVANAUGH: It sounds like that. Yeah, they’re close – closer to the information than we are. Thank you so much. So that first grader knew what we all should know, Chris.
MAREK: Yes, definitely, and that’s – it’s nice to know they’re learning that in school at an early age.
CAVANAUGH: Now, Nancy, I wanted to ask you a final question, if I may. We’re heard from previous guests during the last two hours that we may be feeling aftershocks from this particular earthquake for years. Now for years, really?
KING: Yes. Yes, aftershock sequences go on a long time from earthquakes of this size and then the aftershocks have their own aftershocks. So people in – people near the border should expect to feel earthquakes for quite some time. However, they’ll get much less frequent very rapidly.
CAVANAUGH: I see. And they would get smaller to the point of like twos and threes?
CAVANAUGH: Okay, probably. Well, thank you. Thank you so much for speaking with us today, Nancy King.
KING: You’re welcome.
CAVANAUGH: Nancy King is geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey. And my guest has also been Chris Marek, chief officer for Communications & Development for the American Red Cross of San Diego and Imperial Counties. Probably will be quite busy for the next few days. Chris, thanks for joining us.
MAREK: My pleasure. Thank you for having me on.
CAVANAUGH: I wanted to let everyone know that they can post their comments about what they’ve heard here about any segment that we’ve done at thesedays.org – I’m sorry. It’s KPBS.org/thesedays. KPBS.org/thesedays. I want to thank all of my guests and all of my callers today. Thanks so much for sharing your stories with us. You’ve been listening to These Days on KPBS.
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