In light of the 6.4- and 7.1-magnitude earthquakes in southern California late last week, Palo Alto city officials have stressed the importance for residents to be educated on how to prepare for an emergency at any given time.
Palo Alto's close proximity to eight major faults including the San Andreas and Hayward faults, coupled with the age and density of its infrastructure, will likely result in more severe impacts, according to Office of Emergency Services Director Ken Dueker.
"Palo Alto is different from some other places because we are much more dense and our buildings are older," Dueker said. "As such, a 7.1 earthquake would be very dangerous in our area and most likely not result in zero injures and deaths."
The city's Threat and Hazards Identification Risk Assessment states that there are three anticipated consequences of a major earthquake: severe damage to critical infrastructure, fires, and city, hospital and school employees unable to get to work.
In the Bay Area, it is more likely that people could be injured or killed from the consequences of an earthquake than the earthquake itself, said Dueker.
"It is likely that critical utility services such as power and water could be cut off, and it could take days, weeks or even longer after a significant earthquake for those to be restored," Catherine Elvert, communications manager for Palo Alto Utilities, added. "It is important for people to be self-sufficient and prepare themselves for this."
Dueker emphasized that residents should have an "all-hazards planning mindset."
"We don't want people to just focus on one particular hazard," Dueker said. "It does not mean that anything is more or less likely to occur. There are other emergencies, ranging from major crime to terrorism. People need to prepare for everything."
Dueker said he encourages residents to attend the Silicon Valley Safety and Preparedness Fair at the Stanford Shopping Center on Saturday, July 27, from noon-4 p.m.
"The safety fair is a great opportunity for people to learn about how to prepare for hazards," Dueker said. "Local organizations such as the California Highway Patrol and various fire departments will be there. We will also have experts coming in to help residents build kits and make family plans."
The following steps are recommended by the city's Office of Emergency Services to prepare for an earthquake.
Stay informed: The city of Palo Alto urges residents, businesses and workers to register for AlertSCC, Santa Clara County's notification system the city uses to send out alerts during unforeseen events or emergencies. Regular updates will also be available on the city's website and its pre-recorded emergency hotline at 650-329-2420. Sign up for AlertSCC at sccgov.org.
Make a plan: Residents are advised to create a disaster plan in the event of an emergency. To plan for an earthquake, residents should identify safe spots in each room. They should also hold drills on the "drop, cover and hold on" method, where people drop on their hands and knees; cover their head and neck and hold on until the shaking stops. The city urges people to get a fire extinguisher and know how to turn off the gas, water and electricity to their homes. It is also important to set up a communication plan for after the earthquake, such as selecting a safe place outside to meet family members. More information can be found at earthquakecountry.org.
Build a kit: Residents are encouraged to create emergency preparation supply lists, as many local utilities and amenities will not be available after a large disaster. A sample supply list can be found at cityofpaloalto.org/prepardness.
Get involved: Palo Alto's Emergency Services Volunteer organization is a way for people to get more involved in emergency preparation. Residents who are interested can volunteer for the Community Emergency Response Team, Block Preparedness Coordinator Program, Auxiliary Communications or Medical Reserve Corps. More information can be found at cityofpaloalto.org.