MAIN LIBRARY — Is your family or business prepared for an emergency?

That crucial question was the crux of a presentation delivered by Red Cross of Santa Monica CEO John Pacheco to a small crowd in a UCLA Medical Center-sponsored event at the Santa Monica Main Library Friday.

Southern California is ripe for a major disaster, which could come in the form of a major quake emanating out of the San Andreas Fault — which some scientists predict will come within 10 to 30 years — a tsunami or wildfire, Pacheco said.

The consequences of such an event would be devastating.

According to a government-produced public service announcement displayed at the lecture, a major earthquake along the San Andreas Fault is predicted to result in $213 billion in damages, tens of thousands of injuries and over 1,500 deaths.

Thousands of buildings would be lowered to rubble, and a huge number of Angelenos would find themselves homeless and without power, water or other necessities.

In Santa Monica alone, Pacheco said, there would be 7,000 to 8,000 left homeless, and untold consequences given that, on a nice weekend, the official population of 89,000 residents can swell to nearly half a million.

Despite those dismal statistics, only 28 percent of Americans and 37 percent of Californians have either a plan for how to deal with an emergency or a kit prepared just in case, according to a federal survey.

“We’d like to keep you out of our disaster shelter and UCLA would like to keep you out of their hospital,” Pacheco said.

There’s a lot of work to do. Although Santa Monica launched the “I’ve Got 7” program to educate residents on keeping seven days worth of food, water and other supplies on hand, and the Disaster Assistance and Response Training, or DART, few have taken advantage of them.

According to the 2010-11 community survey, only 19 percent of Santa Monicans have heard of DART. Of those, only 2 percent actually attended the trainings.

Likewise, only 11 percent said they’d seen or heard anything about “I’ve Got 7,” although 48 percent responded that they had seven days of supplies stashed in their home.

Officials are hoping to turn that statistic around during September, which has been declared the disaster preparedness month, said Lt. Ken Semko, director of City Hall’s new Office of Emergency Preparedness.

Also in September, City Hall will launch a new service to help spread information during a disaster through text messages, e-mails or phone calls.

“Residents will be able to go online and sign up for that system in addition to the emergency portion of it and select other things they want to be notified about as well,” Semko said.

In the meantime, people will do themselves a favor by purchasing or assembling their own emergency kits.

Kits should include basic supplies to get an individual or family through power outages, limited communications, road closures, lack of clean water and delays in emergency rescue services reaching their location.

That means keeping food, water, a flashlight, radio, extra batteries and important papers in a safe location ready to grab and go.

Pacheco recommended having three such kits — one for the home, car and office.

Additionally, always have a sturdy pair of shoes, flashlight and extra pair of glasses (if you need them) by your bed, just in case.

If caught at home, have a plan worked out with housemates that includes two potential exits and gathering places, as well as specific contact information for an out-of-state friend or relative to make sure there’s a contact point in a stable region that can communicate your status to others.

If phone systems aren’t working, or are jammed by a large volume of calls, try text messaging, Pacheco said. Messages tend to have an easier time getting through.

When preparing for disaster, don’t forget your furry friends.

“We used to advise people to leave their pets in their homes,” Pacheco said. “We don’t do that anymore.”

After Katrina, over 15,000 family pets were euthanized because people could not bring them into shelters, and many had no form of identification and could not be reconnected with their owners.

Santa Monica is unique in that it has prepared an emergency pet shelter, and raises money for a program that inserts a small microchip into the skin of an animal that contains contact information for the owner.

If the animal gets lost, workers can read the chip and try to reunite the family with its pet.

Keeping the occupants of the home safe comes first, but there are ways to minimize the damage done to the building in the event of disaster.

Know, in advance, where to find the shut off valves for water and gas to prevent either flooding or explosion in case of a break, and make sure that heavy objects like wall hangings, book shelves, filing cabinets and other furniture are secured.

Put latches on drawers that contain breakable possessions like china to prevent both losing valuable heirlooms and creating a hazard.

Best practices and suggestions for equipment to secure both furniture and smaller items can be found at www.fema.gov or www.weather.com.

Jeri Lewis, a Santa Monica resident, made it through the 1994 Northridge earthquake, and already has stashes of supplies in her garage. Still, she wanted to make sure that at least one member of her household attended the lecture, and walked away with a valuable lesson.

“I don’t text message,” she said. “But I’m going to learn how! It’s so important.”

ashley@www.smdp.com

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *