Are You Prepared For The Next Quake?

In February of 1971, an earthquake with a 6.6 magnitude on the Richter scale hit Northridge, California, a city located 24 miles away the California Lutheran University campus. Fast forward 23 years to January of 1994, and an earthquake with a similar destructive magnitude at 6.7 hits Northridge as well. This earthquake event, although the epicenter was not located in Thousand Oaks, did some damage on the Cal Lutheran campus, Dr. William Bilodeau, professor and chair of the geology department, said.

Now here’s California, another 23 years later, and with talk about the possibility of movement on the San Andreas fault, people are wondering if this may not be a coincidence. While Dr. Bilodeau does not believe in the “23 years” phenomenon, he does acknowledge the possibility of another earthquake coming soon.

“I believe in every 20-50 years, there will be an earthquake through the local stresses on a different fault,”  Dr. Bilodeau said.

Whether or not this earthquake is imminent, it still remains very important for the campus and community of Cal Lutheran to be prepared. And after damages from the Northridge earthquake in 1994, the campus had to make several changes to ensure that the school will be better prepared for another earthquake event. Many issues in facilities were brought to light during this natural disaster. Some of these problematic design errors were in the Ahmanson Science Center.

“The chemicals just came flying out of the cupboards, smashed on the floor and acids and things on counters just flew all around,” Bilodeau said.

Although this error has since been solved by latching doors in which chemicals and beakers are stored, Bilodeau said, this earthquake brought many other issues to the attention of the campus.

Some other problems were shelves being built into the wall, the way certain buildings were constructed. Corrugated buildings shaped like the Centrum Cafe and the bookstore did not hold up well, Bilodeau said. These are things Cal Lutheran has had to address in order to move forward in a safe direction.

Another way Cal Lutheran has prepared  for the possibility of an earthquake is by investing in having an active emergency operations center where staff participates in drills related to events of natural disasters, Ryan Van Ommeren, associate vice president of planning and services, said.

Other measures have also been taken by Facility Operations and Planning in order to ensure safety.

“Last year we bought two emergency trailers. In one, we’ve got things like generators, and emergency response equipment in there. The other one is set up for actual mobile response, so there’s communication equipment, like radios,” Van Ommeren said.

In addition to facilities improvement, there are a multitude of ways in which students can prepare themselves for an earthquake, in the case that one occurs.

Andre Petrus, a sophomore at Cal Lutheran from Northridge, California, has been through several earthquakes, and says he now feels prepared for a time when another may come. His advice to other students, who may not be from a place where earthquakes are common, is to stay alert.

“They should probably be educated on the proper procedures, such as going under a table or finding a doorway to stay in,” Petrus said.

Things like making sure your bed is not  under the window, and that nothing too heavy is sitting on high shelves are obvious important things to do, Dr. Bilodeau said, however there are a few things students may not realize are important to consider.

“The biggest injuries in the Northridge earthquake were to people’s hands, their knees, and their feet,” Dr. Bilodeau said.

The first problem is having pictures with glass covering them, Dr. Bilodeau said. The second is that in the event of an earthquake, students tend to panic. And this panic leads people to essentially jump out of bed and run down the hall in the dark, causing injuries to their hands, knees and feet.

Dr. Bilodeau said that the best solution is to use plexiglass on picture frames and keep a flashlight nearby.

Natalie Elliott