Puente Hills earthquake spurs safety measures throughout Orange County

Puente Hills Fault extends through downtown Los Angeles courtesy of Ricardo Dearatanha/Los Angeles Times/MCT
Puente Hills Fault extends through downtown Los Angeles
courtesy of Ricardo Dearatanha/Los Angeles Times/MCT

On March 28, a 5.1-magnitude earthquake shook Orange County and Los Angeles at about 9 P.M. According to the Southern California Earthquake Data Center, the earthquake was centered a mile southeast of La Habra, a city in north Orange County, on the Puente Hills Fault. It was followed by several smaller tremors, two of which were 3.6 and 4.1 magnitude earthquakes, proximate to the city of Brea on the following day.The United States Geological Survey (USGS) warned Los Angeles County residents to take personal safety precautions in event of upcoming earthquakes and review their city’s earthquake safety procedures. For schools, staff and students should be familiar with evacuation procedures and prepared to shelter local residents at public schools. Nonprofit organizations, especially the American Red Cross, and the volunteer-based Irvine Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) set up and administer emergency services at public schools, which serve as emergency response centers. According to the city of Irvine, CERT volunteers instruct community members during emergency situations and provide medical services, such as performing CPR, extinguishing fires, initiating search and rescue missions and treating burn wounds, while dispatched city emergency services take time to arrive. Irvine residents can apply to join the CERT program through an interest form and can also register to receive IAlerts- text messages, phone calls or signals to hearing-impairment devices alerting residents of emergencies – through interest forms available on the City of Irvine website.According to the Los Angeles Times, scientists first identified the Puente Hills fault in 1987 during the 5.9 magnitude Whittier Narrows earthquake, which killed eight people and led to $358 million in damage. According to the USGS, a 7.5-magnitude quake on this fault has the potential to cause 18,000 fatalities and destruction amounting to $250 billion in damage. In addition, the fault runs right through a densely populated area, extending 25 miles from Whittier to downtown Los Angeles and Beverly Hills.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) advises residents of earthquake-prone zones to create a home evacuation and family communication plan, and store emergency first-aid kits. The city of Irvine urges residents to take first-aid, CPR or emergency response courses the city offers through the CERT (a branch of FEMA) or American Red Cross organizations.
University High School (UHS) and the Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) have outlined emergency plans in the event of a large-scale earthquake occurring during school hours. Mr. Michael Georgino (Admin.) said, “UHS holds two evacuation drills for all emergency scenarios each year. Also, the Senior Resource Officer connects the school with the local fire and police departments.” UHS also has a Student Brigade program in which volunteers collect roll slips from homeroom teachers and distribute equipment (medical supplies, food, water) during drills and emergencies. They facilitate communication between teachers, students and the administration during evacuation. Students interested in joining the Student Brigade, please contact Mr. Georgino at [email protected]
Staff Writer