The events in Japan have highlighted the need for earthquake (disaster) preparedness at all levels; for in California, it’s not if but when the ‘big one’ will strike
By Yussuf J. Simmonds
Sentinel Managing Editor
In recent days, nuclear, meltdown, radiation and disaster have been words that have filled the atmosphere, and with good cause: the 8.9 earthquake that has rocked Japan coupled with a monumental tsumani of juggernaut proportion has cause California to pause and think. “Are we ready for the big one?” Prominent seismologists have already said, it’s not a matter of “if” but it’s a matter of “when” will the big one hit California.
Headquartered on the USC campus is the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC) and when asked if California is at risk or is it ready for something like the earthquake in Japan, its director of outreach, Mark Benthien, told the Sentinel: “We are definitely at risk, California has the highest risk in the country for an earthquake. We have the highest risk for both earthquakes and the amount of damage because so many people live here.
There are certain numbers there is a study on (scec.org/ucerf) that talks about the chance of the earthquake being at 99.7%. We had that earthquake last Easter just south of the border but we expect that we generally have an earthquake of that size every 5-10 years. The probability in the LA area is on that website also, it is less because there are fewer faults. The chance is there, this is earthquake country, it can happen right now, there is no reason it can’t happen right now.”
The tragedy in Japan has certainly highlighted the need for earthquake preparedness throughout California through which the San Andreas Fault runs. From first responders to business and property owners, they all have taken the events in the Pacific to upgrade their preparedness – a warning in the form of a tragedy.
Of major concern to all is the possible radiation fallout effect that some say might reach American soil – the West Coast or perhaps Hawaii and or Guam. But here in California the concern foremost in the residents’ minds is: “Will we be ready when the big one strikes; will we be able to survive the expectant tragedy that is sure to follow?” There are nuclear power plants in California and Californians’ concerns are valid.
Edward Lyman, a scientist explained the severe risk among those who may be working at nuclear plants when an earthquake strikes. In order to stave off further damage and/or destruction, Lyman said, “In a case where there is a breach in the (nuclear) reactor, their primary function is to keep radioactive material from escaping and to prevent further damage to the core of the reactor. Someone who is exposed to this kind of radiation who have a significant increase in the risk of cancer… This I think is one of the greatest flaws in nuclear plants today: the expectation that there will be workers who will be heroic enough to sacrifice their lives in an event like this (maintaining damaged nuclear plants during a natural disaster).”
Meanwhile, right here in California, many elected officials have issued statements of condolences and concern to the Japanese people and some have even began raising and collecting donations to help in the relief efforts while initiating preventative measures to minimize damage to the state when (any) disaster strikes – natural and/or man-made.
Attorney General Kamala D. Harris:
“We are saddened by the widespread loss of life and extensive damage the Japanese people have suffered. As the surges of the tsunami waves on our shores demonstrate, we are connected to Japan, touched by its tragedy. In coming days, Californians, along with all Americans, must focus on helping Japan rebuild and recover.”
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa:
“On behalf of all Angelenos I want to extend our thoughts and prayers to the people of Japan, as well as to the family and friends of victims affected by this horrible tragedy.
“The City of Los Angeles stands ready and willing to help in any way it can to ease the suffering and aide in the recovery of this devastating earthquake.”
Los Angeles City Council President Pro Tempore Jan Perry and Councilmember Bernard C. Parks will hold a fundraising drive to assist the American Red Cross with their disaster relief efforts in Japan, following a massive 8.9 earthquake last Friday. Perry and Parks will join volunteers outside City Hall on Main Street, between 1st and Temple, collecting donations from passing pedestrians and motorists. Consul General Junichi Ihara of Japan will also stop by to express his gratitude on behalf of the Japanese government.
Councilwoman Janice Hahn:
“This morning, in the wake of the earthquake and its devastation in Japan, I reported to the Command Post in San Pedro for the West Coast Tsunami Advisory. I was impressed by the quick establishment of a command center for rapid strategic deployment of firefighters and officers to notify residents, marine terminals and boat owners of the looming threat of possible tsunami-like waves.”
And in the near future, the Los Angeles County Health Officer, Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, will make a statement regarding the likelihood of any possible radiation exposure in LA County due to the nuclear power plant situation in Japan and will also address concerns regarding the use of potassium iodide (KI).