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County conducts annual earthquake safety drill

LOS ANGELES — An estimated 11 million California residents and business owners “dropped, covered and held on” Oct. 20 during the annual statewide earthquake drill.

Earthquake safety requires everyone to drop on their hands and knees, which provides protection from being knocked down and allows for crawling to nearby shelter.

The next step is to cover the head and neck with one arm and hand and crawl under a table or desk if there is one nearby. If no shelter is available, crawl to an interior wall, but stay away from windows. Then, hold on until the shaking stops.

People in wheelchairs are advised to “lock, cover and hold.”

“In California and especially Southern California, we don’ t ask if there will be an earthquake, but when,” said Maria MeloBueno of the American Red Cross. “Being prepared is not as complicated as everyone thinks. The most important things to remember are to make a plan and build a kit.”

An estimated 4.5 million people participated in Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties, including people at all 38 Los Angeles Superior Courthouses.

The exercises started with the ringing of the courthouses’ emergency fire bells followed by instructions over the sheriff’s department over public address systems.

“There’s a difference between being ready and being prepared,” said Kenneth Kondo, emergency program manager and public information officer for the county, who has been nicknamed “The Disaster Guy.”

“Being prepared means you know what to do, but being ready means not even having to think about it.”

He compared earthquake readiness to the Dodgers competing for the National League pennant.

“They’ve spent weeks and months practicing and now they don’t think, they just play,” Kondo said. “That’s what we tell people about preparing for disasters, ‘practice, practice, practice.”

Kondo also stressed the importance of establishing a communications plan, since during some disasters such as hurricanes or earthquakes, outgoing calls shut down the cellular phone networks.

Kondo also advised all Californians to establish a contact outside the county in case the cell phone towers go down during a disaster. That way, family and friends can get in touch with a designated person to inquire about the safety of their loved ones.

According to Kondo, the network also collapsed during the 2014 Napa Earthquake but for a different reason; 911 calls due to cuts from broken glass on the floor.

“That’s why you need to keep an emergency earthquake kit under the bed with closed shoes,” he said.

Securing your space, is another preparedness measure; that is, making sure any heavy furniture that can fall is attached to a wall. Kondo recommends using museum putty to secure dishes.

Other disaster preparedness events this month from the county also include a zombie-themed scavenger hunt at Cal State Northridge on Oct. 25. Students collect emergency blankets, bandage dispensers, hand sanitizers to create disaster kits. FEMA recognized last year’s event with an Individual and Community Preparedness Award.

Another piece of invaluable earthquake advice, according to Kondo, is not to run outside to avoid being hit by debris. That is what he told a crowd at the Disneyland Hotel during the 2014 La Habra earthquake.

“I was there trading Disney pins, and I got five extra ones, since I knew what to do,” Kondo said.