City prepares for the 'Big One'

DOWNEY - The city of Downey and Downey Unified School District participated in the 2010 Great Shakeout Exercise on Oct. 21.Most city employees, DUSD students and staff had a role in the exercise, which simulated an earthquake. Experts believe Southern California is overdue for a serious earthquake along one of the major faults running through the L.A. area. They predict an earthquake in the 7-8 magnitude range will cause major damage to our area and disrupt the flow of supplies, utilities, business and transportation for 3-7 days (at least). If an earthquake of this magnitude does occur, we will all be very challenged to provide the necessary services and address the needs of this community. On Thursday, at 10:21 a.m, everyone involved in the exercise practiced drop, cover and hold-on for 15 seconds after being notified through an intercom message or a whistle signal. The serious earthquake that's predicted may last considerably longer than 15 seconds. When a real earthquake occurs, we should stay in our drop, cover, and hold-on position until the shaking stops. The 'drop' means you should move to the floor of your work area/space (on hands and knees). It is better to move to the floor immediately, rather than falling to the floor because of the violent shaking of an earthquake. The 'cover' means you should cover your head and neck to protect those areas from the harm of falling debris. The best cover is to crawl under a sturdy desk or table. The 'hold-on' means you should get a hand on the table or desk legs of whatever you are climbing under. It is expected the shaking will move whatever you have crawled under, so be sure to keep your protective cover in place, over you. This procedure is the action recommended by experts. If you cannot get under a sturdy object, get on the floor in an area near an interior wall away from windows and objects that may topple or fall. Once on the floor and next to the interior wall, cover your head and neck with your hands. Following the 15 seconds of drop, cover and hold-on, city and DUSD facilities were evacuated. A roll call was then performed outside at specificly assigned areas. Police department employees experienced some additional simulated problems during the exercise. These exercises allowed us to evaluate some of the emergency preparedness measures taken in the last few months. Police, fire, public works and the water departments were all involved in a physical survey of the city buildings and infrastructure once they completed their drop, cover and hold-on actions and evacuated their buildings. This survey process of the city is called a 'windshield assessment'. A small number of city staff members reported to the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at fire station No. 1 and set-up the EOC to receive the reports of the windshield assessment. The Downey HAM radio club participated in the exercise by staffing their new workstation at the EOC.

********** Published: October 28, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 28