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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

The Earth has mostly stopped rumbling in Southern California, but people there are still talking about Tuesday's quake. While it didn't cause much damage, NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates says the quake did serve as a reminder of what could happen.

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES: Earthquakes are scary, but even when things are shaking hard, most Angelenos remain pretty calm. L.A. TV anchors just threw the quake into their broadcast as it happened.

Unidentified Man#1: I believe we are having…

Unidentified Woman: Oh, a big one.

Unidentified Man: Yeah, a big earthquake right now.

GRIGSBY BATES: And a City Council member barked the announcement to his colleagues and to visitors during a debate about collecting recyclables.

Unidentified Man #2: I know that's a lot of money you're talking about. And there was the earthquake. Earthquake, earthquake, earthquake.

GRIGSBY BATES: And of course, this being Los Angeles, people across the city - like this guy - had one thing on their minds as soon as the shaking stopped.

Unidentified Man #3: Obviously, the first I thought to do was make a video.

GRIGSBY BATES: And he wasn't alone. There are scores of them on YouTube now, like this man mourning a lost opportunity.

Unidentified Man $5: So, shake and shake. Man, I'm so bummed. I wanted to have the camera on while this was happening.

GRIGSBY BATES: Two members of L.A.'s 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. Councilwoman Wendy Greuel.

Ms. WENDY GREUEL (President Pro Tem, Los Angeles City Council Second District): Today, we're here at Northridge Mall, which really was the scene of the 1994 earthquake where you really had visuals of what an earthquake can do and its strength.

GRIGSBY BATES: The 6.7 Northridge quake was serious enough to kill at least 61 people, mostly from collapsed buildings, and cost over $20 billion in damage. About 14 years have passed. The area has recovered, and Greuel says people do the human thing.

Ms. GREUEL: People kind of forget, and so we want to seize this opportunity to take control and say we're going to prepare people in this city for an earthquake. It is inevitable, and all of the statistics will show that we will have a major earthquake in this region, and so we need to be prepared.

Mr. GREIG SMITH (Los Angeles City Council, Twelfth District): That being said, nobody can be prepared for what we believe is coming in the next two decades or so.

GRIGSBY BATES: That's Greuel's council colleague, Greg Smith. Smith has worked on earthquake preparedness for decades. 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 L.A. on a weekday.

Mr. SMITH: There could be a loss of 10,000 lives downtown, and the biggest loss of life comes from flying glass.

GRIGSBY BATES: Out in the neighborhood, preparedness will allow residents to survive until first responders can reach them, which will probably take days. Volunteers David Young and his wife May(ph), believe everyone should take the free county emergency training they've got.

Mr. DAVID YOUNG (Volunteer): The whole training is not really asking you to be a professional but give us enough basic skill so that we can survive.

GRIGSBY BATES: Planning is essential. LAPD Deputy Chief Mike Moore says people plan their vacations, their budgets, even what they'll have for lunch.

Mr. MIKE MOORE (Deputy Chief, LAPD): But then you ask them, how much water do you have? How much food do you have for your family? How would your pets survive? What supply of medicines do you have?

GRIGSBY BATES: Good question. This week's quake is being heralded as a shake-up call to jolt Angelenos out of their complacency. Wendy Greuel says with each quake, the county learns more to prepare for the next one.

Ms. GREUEL: That's what these wake-up calls are about, it's to look at how we can do it better.

GRIGSBY BATES: So they can be prepared not if, but when The Big One hits. Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News.

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