Preparing for Unexpected

MAYA GONZALEZ, Editorial Co-Editor

California is widely seen as the epicenter of glitz and glam, beaches and surfing, of movies and modeling agencies and often, it is this side of the Golden State that draws people in, that makes them want to move here, where a budding actress might get the part that starts her career or where the struggling musician might score a record deal. 

What many people do not know, however, is that underneath the dazzle of paparazzi and sunshine, there will always be the threat of natural disasters for which civilians can do nothing but prepare. In California, there are a multitude of natural disasters that can happen, the most common of which include earthquakes, tsunamis, and wildfires. 

In the case of an earthquake, schools across California participate in something called the Great Shakeout each year. On the third Tuesday of each October, many school districts have their schools participate in the Shakeout, which not only designates emergency evacuation routes but also teaches students proper duck and cover methods. 

However, due to the coronavirus pandemic sending schools across the country headfirst into virtual learning, preparation methods like this are not as effective. The official website of the Department of Homeland Security urges people to plan ahead by securing heavy items to walls, such as bookcases, dressers, TVs, and refrigerators. Making an emergency supply kit, obtaining an earthquake insurance policy, and creating a family emergency communications plan are also among Homeland Security’s top recommendations. 

Homeland Security also explains what to do during an earthquake, depending on where people are. If driving, we are advised to pull over, stop, and set the parking brake. If we are in bed, we are told to turn onto our stomachs and use a pillow to cover our neck and head. If outdoors, recommendations include staying outside, away from buildings and power lines. 

Most of the time, things will end there. Cities will come together. Buildings will be rebuilt. Roads will be repaved. As time passes and the threat of aftershocks grows smaller, things will eventually return to normal and people will relax. 

That being said, all earthquakes, especially particularly strong ones, have the potential to cause tsunamis, another type of natural disaster that involves a huge wave coming up from the ocean to impact the mainland. If a tsunami occurs, Homeland Security recommends that you travel at least a mile inland and take shelter in a building at least 100 feet above sea level. 

Wildfires, unfortunately, are also quite common in California due to the high temperatures and strong winds. They can happen anywhere at any time, though they become more common during times of high winds and little rain, such as droughts. 

Regrettably, there is not much that can be done to prepare for wildfires. As is the case with earthquakes, we should each create an emergency kit stocked with nonperishable food, water, and medical supplies to last at least three days. Being alert and heeding advice of officials is also always recommended.

Rethinking disaster strategies and communication plans while learning from home will go a long way to minimizing the stress and anxiety that comes before and during an emergency, and may actually help save a life when disaster strikes.

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