Making earthquake preparedness personal

I slept through the whole thing. Part of me is thankful, considering it was 3:20 a.m. and I had to work at Caltopia later that day, but I mostly feel like I missed out.

Earthquakes have always held some fascination for me, as my life has been lived on top of some of the most active fault lines in the United States. But they are also a legitimate source of anxiety for me and, I’m sure, for everyone else who lives in earthquake country. Nothing shows you how much of a boss Mother Nature is quite like when she grabs the ground out from under your feet and throws all your dishes on the floor without any warning.

It’s the threat of that kind of power that drove me to work for the Office of Emergency Management, the team responsible for preparing our campus for myriad crises, from fires and bomb threats to, of course, earthquakes. And it’s that kind of power that should put earthquake preparedness at the forefront of every Berkeley student’s mind.

It is a solid fact that we need to get prepared for another earthquake. According to the U.S. Geologic Survey, the probability of a magnitude 6.7 or greater earthquake in the Bay Area is 63 percent in the next 30 years. The probability that it’s going to happen on the Hayward fault, which runs directly under our gorgeous campus, is 31 percent. For context, an earthquake of that magnitude would be four times as big as Sunday’s.

But that’s not even the most present threat. The Northern California Seismic System operated by UC Berkeley and USGS warns that there’s a 2-percent chance of another earthquake equal to or greater than the tremor on Sunday within the next seven days. That stat should be an eye-opener.

While I may have literally slept through last weekend’s earthquake, as did many of you, on a larger scale as students, we have been sleeping through earthquake preparedness for years. When I’ve talked about earthquake safety to my friends and peers, responses vary from utterly bored to entirely confused.

That reaction makes perfect sense, considering the fact that there is a lot of conflicting information on how to react to a quake. Do you stay inside? Duck and cover? Get in a doorway? The earthquake Sunday and the threat of another one on the horizon makes it impossible to deny how important it is to sort all this information out immediately.

Fortunately, it’s actually quite easy to take care of yourself before, during and after an earthquake, as long as you have the right information.

Let’s lay it out clear and simple, straight from the Office of Emergency Management. There’s a quake, what do you do?

·      Get down low.

·      Move away from windows that will shatter and rain shards of glass on your beautiful face.

·      If it’s close to you, get under a piece of sturdy furniture.

·      If there is no furniture around you, for goodness’ sake, please don’t run to another location so you can dive under a table. Stay put, and cover your head. Running around will just get you knocked out by flying debris.

·      Do you live in an unreinforced adobe house? No? Then there is no reason to stand in a doorway. It’s no more stable than any other part of the building. You’ll probably just get smacked in the face with a door.

·      Have a go-bag ready if you need to evacuate. Fill it with necessary items and personal stuff that you simply can’t leave behind.

·      When the shaking stops, calmly move to an open space away from buildings and power lines.

·      After any disaster, only make calls if it’s a life-threatening emergency. Tweet, text and email to your heart’s content, but keep the phone lines free.

That’s the abbreviated version, and you should know at least that. But because the Office of Emergency Management cares and wants you to be ready for any kind of emergency, we’ve put together a comprehensive mobile app with all the tips, tricks, facts and answers you could want. The app is called In Case of Crisis, and it is available for free through the App Store or Google Play.

As Cal students, preparedness is something that needs to be personal. To put it plainly, there are about 55,000 students, faculty and staff that make up UC Berkeley. The reality is that there’s just no feasible way for the school to take care of that many people immediately after a catastrophe, so the responsibility falls to you.

Go to for directions on how to find and download the preparedness app. Do it now. Make earthquake preparedness part of your UC Berkeley experience. You’re a Bear, so you’re already equipped to deal with ridiculous course loads and cutthroat competition. In comparison, earthquake preparedness is a breeze; you just have to be smart about it.

Gabrielle Aldern is the student intern at the Office of Emergency Management and a third year public health student.

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