Calif. Uses Quake To Prepare For 'Big One'

Quake Videos

See some of the Los Angeles quake-related videos that have ended up on YouTube:

Los Angeles was rocked earlier this week by a 5.4 quake. It wasn't "The Big One," but it was a useful reminder to the area's residents that they should start thinking about and preparing for that before it happens.

Earthquakes are scary, but even when things are shaking hard, most Angelenos usually remain calm.

When the quake hit, local TV anchors just threw it into their broadcast as it happened. A City Council member barked the announcement to his colleagues and to visitors during a live debate about collecting recyclables. And people across the city had one thing on their minds as soon as the shaking stopped: make a video.

Two members of the Los Angeles City Council decided to use this moderate quake as a teachable moment. They're hammering home the need for everyone to prepare for The Big One.

The Northridge Mall was hit during the 1994 quake. Councilwoman Wendy Greuel says that 6.7 temblor showed just what an earthquake can do; it killed at least 61 people — mostly from collapsed buildings — and caused more than $20 billion in damage. But 14 years have passed, the area has recovered, and Greuel says people do the human thing: "People kind of forget," she says.

"And we want to kind of seize this opportunity, take control and say we're going to prepare people for an earthquake," Greuel says. "It is inevitable; all the statistics will show that we will have a major earthquake in this region and so we need to be prepared."

Greg Smith, Greuel's council colleague, has worked on earthquake preparedness for decades.

"Nobody can be prepared for what we believe is coming in the next two decades or so," he says.

He's referring to a recent study that predicts a catastrophic quake — the so-called Big One — will hit Southern California in the next 30 years. The predictions are especially grim if a quake hits downtown Los Angeles on a weekday.

"There could be a loss of 10,000 lives downtown, and the biggest loss of life comes from flying glass," Smith says.

This week's quake is being heralded as a shake-up call, to jolt Angelenos out of their complacency.

Greuel says that with each quake, the county learns more to prepare for the next one.

"That's what these wake-up calls are about ... to look at how we can do it better," she says.

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