by Brooke Grasso
photography by Dorothy Gartsman
Are you ready for the big one? But, really, are you ready to drop, cover and hold while the shaking along our 800-mile long fault rumbles 10 miles under the ground?
The earthquake is coming, and with so many small tremors and life-shattering Mexico earthquakes recently, it may be making its trembling appearance soon.
Gitty Amini, Jay Jones, Sean Bernard, Ebony Williams, Scott Forsyth and Giovanna Z. Rinaldo reflect on what they have done, or have not done, to prepare for when the big one hits.
Gitty Amini, associate professor of political science, University of La Verne
“Not enough. I try to do things; I have a really long commute so I have to have things in the car just in case. I have a jacket, comfortable shoes, and at home we have water, food, you know—lots of ramen and other shelf stable stuff. But I wouldn’t want to eat any of it. But if you’re hungry enough, you’re gonna do it. But probably not enough, to be honest.
We aren’t good about checking it to make sure it hasn’t expired, things like that. I was telling my students the other day, reminding them to have a pair of shoes by the bed so if it happens in the middle of the night, and they have to get up and run out, that they have something on their feet. You don’t want to run out of the dorms naked. Maybe you should sleep with something on. That might be a good thing.
The other thing I tell my students is to carry cash. If something happens, and all the ATMs are down, we’re hearing about all of the cases in Mexico City where there are long lines; you don’t want to be one of those people waiting for the ATM machine to come back online. The other problem with having cash around is you’re tempted to spend it. You need to be disciplined about only using it for emergencies.
I remember the Northridge earthquake. It was the one that affected me the most. I was living alone in an apartment. I was a grad student. It was tough because there was damage to the building. All of my book cases toppled over; stuff fell out of the cabinets. My apartment had to shut off the gas and water for two weeks. But it didn’t make me want to move out of California. I just learned my lesson to be more prepared next time.
It seems to me, it isn’t something we should worry about. It happens so frequently here in Southern California, I don’t think we should obsess about it. We should be prepared. It helps with your state of mind.
Nevertheless, I’m worried about it a little bit here, I spend a lot of time here and in my car. I’m in a really small office here, so it’s a little scary. The bookshelves are bolted to the wall, but the stuff is going to fall out. But at the same time, I’ve got provisions to shelter in place if needed. This [Founders Hall] building, because it’s so old, we will need to evacuate.
As native Californians, sometimes we can be lazy about it, maybe even a bit too lazy. We still need to take it seriously and to be prepared. It is a fact of life, so there’s no point in panicking and leaving the state or anything, but if you’re going to live here, you need to be prepared.”
Jay Jones, professor of biology and biochemistry, University of La Verne
“The answer to that is “no.” If you look in my [Mainiero Building] office, for instance, you see no restraining bars on the books; they will come falling out. This building is a brick building that consists of two layers of brick with a two-inch concrete core. In an earthquake, those bricks could peel off. To be quite honest with you, I would rather be in Founders Hall than this building. I’m aware of the danger; it doesn’t consume much of my thought. I do think ‘where would I go?’ and I stress that with my students. I would simply go under my desk if I were here.
I teach general geology. I’m a lucky guy; I get to teach all kinds of things. I take students to the San Andres Fault right over here. We’re very close to that fault trend, and of course that’s a very big fault trend. Were in a kink of the San Andres fault. Because of the jog, it binds up, and so when there is one, it is going to be a very, very big one.
For my students, it’s part of our safety training in our laboratory downstairs, and there are very few places where students can duck. There is a lot of heavy equipment, so I have students think, ‘OK, where are you going to go if the shaking begins?’
I tell the students not to just dash out of the building because we have these big tiles, and the tiles are held there primarily by gravity. If we have a little after shock, and one comes sailing down, those are ceramic tiles, and they could kill a person.
And then, of course, if it’s a fairly mild quake, and you’ve got a Bunsen burner going, hit it before you duck to turn it off. If you have a boiling water bath, make sure you move away.”
Sean Bernard, professor of creative writing, University of La Verne
“I used to be afraid of earthquakes before I moved to California. The first earthquake I felt was in 1999 on Thanksgiving. It kind of woke me up. And I was like, ‘I feel like that was an earthquake.’ And that was the extent of that conversation. In 2007-2012, I felt indifferent with occasional bouts of ‘it’s nice to shake things up every now and then, no pun intended; oh, wait, it’s awful to think that disasters might in any way be good stupid Dwayne Johnson movies.’
Any time there is a natural disaster, my wife and I try to give money. The response is to help out with relief efforts, but it doesn’t make me more wary of California earthquakes. I’m pretty aware of fault lines.
We’re Costco members, and they have this, ‘You can get a 1,000 meals readiness kit for the end of the world.’ My wife and I joke about getting it for each other for Christmas.
I replay and reconsider personal interactions more than hypothetical situations. I’m more upset by people than by earthquakes that haven’t happened. Actual fires are worse than pretend earthquakes. I understand that people fear these abstractions, but there are many more problems that we can actually do something about. Filling a bathtub with water or buying bomb shelters is privileging your imagination over real problems. Real problems are harder to deal with.”
Ebony Williams, assistant director of the Academic Success Center
“I have friends who work in emergency preparedness, so they just give me stuff. I have this flashlight that if you squeeze it, all of a sudden it comes on. I also have packaged food and water that will last a few days. I have it all in a bag. and it’s in a closet. So that’s how prepared I am, and it has nothing to do with me; it’s because of my friends.
It doesn’t scare me at all. I grew up in California, and I was around during Northridge, so it is just kind of life. The thing that does freak me out are tornados. My cousin moved to Oklahoma, and I’m like, ‘OK, that I can’t do.’
I was little during the Northridge earthquake, and it wasn’t that scary to me. I think it is the growing up with it that makes it not as intimidating. I think a 20-year-old in the middle of that would be like, ‘What? I’m going back to wherever I came from.’ Since we’re from California, it’s a part of our life.
The thought of it stays in the background. It’s not something I think about often, except for when I’m thinking about designing my room—OK, where can I put it where it doesn’t fall, and if it does fall, it has a very short way to travel. If things fall, they will fall straight down on to the carpet, or they will shake and stay on the wall.
The one place I don’t want to be is in my car. I wouldn’t know what to do. I would just stop. I think talking about it gets you to prepare, though, because now I’m thinking I should put something in my car. So, thank you.”
Scott Forsyth, maintenance worker, University of La Verne
“My family tries to be prepared. Am I totally prepared? I’d be lying to you. OK, no, we’re not really prepared. Our feeling was always that, we have an RV, and if it were a major earthquake we would just live in the RV because it is self contained. That’s one of our ideas, but, unfortunately, it’s stored across town.
Our closets and what not—everything is strapped down so it won’t come down, but other than that we try to have a provision of food.
I’ve experienced several earthquakes. I’ve worked at La Verne for more than 30 years, and I was here during the Northridge earthquake where part of the Arts and Communications building fell down. Our shop was right across the street. It was pretty scary. Even during that time with the little cell phones we had, everyone was trying to call everyone at the same time, and no one could get through. The phone lines we tried calling were land lines, and the phones were always busy. So, you didn’t know what happened at home, because you were over here at work. It was kind of scary.
My advice: Try to have anything that can fall over strapped down. Maybe some of the pictures on your wall should have double-sided sticky tape on the back to make sure they stay on the wall. Make sure your water heater is well secured. I just changed mine out at home, and the straps on it, I discovered, were not very good.”
Giovanna Z. Rinaldo, University of La Verne international student from Brazil.
“I wouldn’t say I’m afraid of the earthquake. I just like to be prepared and know I can only do so much, but I would rather be ready to do that when the time comes, if it does. It is better to be safe than sorry, and I was actually talking to people on the Campus Times trying to convince them to have the minimum amount of supplies in the room, because we’re in that building a lot. It would be good to at least have some protection in there.
To prepare myself, I came up with this earthquake kit after everyone was talking about an increased chance of an earthquake. I was scared it was going to happen soon. It was around that time I was thinking, “What if it happens this week?” So I went online, and there are a lot of lists about what you can get to be prepared. I printed one out and circled everything I thought was most important. I went to Target, got a bunch of stuff and put it in this bag. I have another smaller one in my car, too. Now, I’m prepared.
A lot of people say that when the big one hits, it’s going to be huge, and there is only so much you can do. Because of the Mexico earthquakes recently, and because they’re so close, I have the feeling we will have one soon. So, having the kit gives me a little bit more safety, but not so much.
I have this first aid kit with 125 items like Band-Aids, Neosporin, Bengay, hand cleansing wipes and gloves. [I have] lots of Band-Aids, which I don’t know whether they will actually help much. I keep the kit in my apartment, in my closet. I’ve never opened it; its just there, waiting. Looking at it now, I think I might need some other things. I made a laminated card with tape over paper with the Brazilian consulate number, passport information, visa control number and driver’s license information in case I need to flee. I also have $100 because I never have cash on me, and my dad is always telling me, ‘You need to have cash for emergencies.’ You never know; if an earthquake happens, energy might be down.
I also have shampoo, soap, toothpaste, tissues, medicine, Vaseline, a toothbrush, hand sanitizer. If I have to leave, I just have everything here. I didn’t really pack clothes, so if it happens that would be the thing I would need to get really quick before I can leave.
And there’s more. I have duct-tape, I don’t know what it’s for, but what if I need it to fix something? I have a big flashlight that came in a set with a smaller one that I keep by my bed. Then, there are some glow sticks, in case there is no electricity, and I need to draw attention somewhere. One is blue, and one is green. My favorite in the whole kit is my whistle. When I did research, people said this was the most important. If you can’t call for help, or if you’re almost passing out, people can actually find you with this. I have one in my car, too. For now, I feel like I’m kind of ready.”
From the Editor:
So, how do we prepare for the big one? If all of this overwhelmed you into wanting an earthquake kit like Giovanna’s, head over to Ready.gov for some suggested, possibly life saving items. Optimally, your kit will have enough to get you through the first 48 hours, whether you are at home, in your car or at work. If you are feeling generous, bring a little extra to help out some co-workers; you never know what you wil need from them, in turn. Food, water, comfortable shoes, medications, laminated documents, a first aid kit and a backup phone charger are just a few of the essentials.
Unfortunately, luck will be upfront. Let us just say I hope I am not in an elevator on the 24th floor or in Jay Jones’ Mainiero Building office. Perhaps our best sharing nature will come out, and people like Scott Forsyth will have enough room for all of us in their RVs. For now, I’m stocking up on Top Ramen and keeping around some good karma.