Japanese earthquake is a reminder that California is vulnerable
Published: Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Updated: Thursday, July 12, 2012 15:07
When Americans watch a tragedy happen on television — like the tsunami in Japan — it is hard for them to grasp the reality of the event. Japan is so far away from us and so far removed from our daily life that it is hard to imagine something that unfortunate happening here. However, we have to remember that we live in a coastal earthquake-prone area too, and this kind of thing is expected to happen to us soon.
Since I moved to Southern California, I have experienced two earthquakes. The first one happened my freshman year in college, while I was brushing my teeth in the dorms, and I had no idea what was happening. The second one happened a year later in 2009, and I almost slept through it. I lived on the second floor of my apartment complex, so the building started making all kinds of noise.
For some reason, I disregarded these events almost immediately. I assumed that it was normal to have earthquakes every once in a while. Most of my friends who grew up around the Long Beach area were joking about it like it was no big deal. After watching the news for the past few days, I have realized that things could be much worse than people anticipate. I don't think there are many college students in the area that will actually know what to do when "the big one" hits us.
Never have I been told how to react if a massive earthquake was to hit California. There is information available online, but I never thought to even look it up until now. I guess that serves as proof as to how ignorant some Californians are about earthquakes. Even though California is constantly being warned of "the big one," we assume that things like this will only happen overseas in places such as Japan or Haiti, while we watch from the comfort of our couch.
In reality, an earthquake of that magnitude in California would probably have much more catastrophic results than there were in Japan. As horrific as this event was, the Japanese people are very aware of the dangers of an earthquake, meaning they are more educated in regards to what to do or where to go for safety. If it had happened here, I know I wouldn't have survived.
Californians should see this disaster as a warning that Mother Nature can sometimes be cruel. We are being naive by thinking that something like this couldn't happen any second in California. For example, the 1994 Northridge earthquake had a magnitude of 6.7, and caused multiple deaths and thousands of injuries. In Japan, it was a massive 8.9 magnitude quake, which is exponentially more powerful in comparison to the Northridge earthquake.
Everyone should be at least moderately prepared for and aware of the big possibility of a similarly large earthquake happening in California. If a major disaster were to occur, it may be several weeks before vital services and resources are restored. There are places online — such as 72hours.org — where you can learn how to prepare for such an event.
So, when you watch footage of the Japanese tsunami on the news, imagine for a second what it would be like to find yourself in that situation. Right now all we can do is find a way to donate money or help in any way, instead of simply watching the disaster take place on TV. You can send a donation to American Red Cross Relief by texting REDCROSS to 90999. As a Californian, you don't know how long it will be before you are the one who needs help.
Matt Grippi is a junior journalism major and contributing writer for the Daily 49er.