Santa Paula Times

City of Santa Paula employees Raquel Arreola and Lorena Alvarez practice “Duck, Cover, and Hold On” (photo above left) during the October 20 “ California ShakeOut.” (Above right photo) Sandy Easley (left) and (right) Anita Lopez help set up the Emergency Operations Center in the City Council Chambers. (Photos by Debbie Johnson)

Great California ShakeOut encourages Duck, Cover and Hold On

October 26, 2011
Santa Paula News

California was the scene of the largest emergency preparedness event in the world when on Thursday, October 20 at 10:20 a.m. millions of people took the time to Drop, Cover and Hold On to practice a move that in case of an earthquake could be a lifesaver. The 2011 Great California ShakeOut at 10-20 at 10:20 a.m. drew more than 8.6 million participants, including individuals at home or at work, municipalities, schools and others with an eye to the inevitable.

“It’s not if we have an earthquake,” said Santa Paula Fire Captain Steve Lazenby, “it’s when.” And when a trembler hits the Golden State, knowing what to do - before, during and after - could mean the difference between life and death. Lazenby, also the city’s Emergency Preparedness coordinator, said, “Overall, it went okay,” after the lead up to the Great ShakeOut.

The Ready Santa Paula AM 1610 radio station had an event introduction by City Manager Jaime Fontes, who noted citizens should be prepared for all kinds of emergencies, not just earthquake. But in the case of an earthquake, he said to “duck, cover and hold on” to keep whatever you sought shelter under from moving away during the seismic event. 

Following Fontes’ remarks, the station carried the state’s realistic recording simulating an earthquake. The city’s Emergency Operations Center was activated and Asst. Fire Chief Kevin Fildes was named Incident Commander of the faux emergency that also involved Santa Paula Police, Building & Safety and the Auxiliary Communications Service, those ham radio operators acknowledged to be vital to any emergency response.  

Area school districts held their own exercises and also worked with the city “on their own scenarios” of need or reassurance. In all, Lazenby said, the city’s EOC handled more than 100 reports from the field on the aftermath of the earthquake and gauged response scenarios. The EOC, he added, was activated until noon. 

“We found, as we always do, things we have to work on, things to change or things to improve,” the reason why such exercises are held regularly in earthquake prone California. But the exercises come in handy for dealing with all emergencies or disasters, said Lazenby. “The main thing everyone has to think about is preparedness - have emergency supplies on hand,” plans for evacuation and communication, staying safe and surviving.

On the Central Coast region that includes Ventura, Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, 380,820 people registered to take part in Thursday’s drill. In Ventura County alone 151,329 people registered, and Lazenby is trying to determine the number of Great ShakeOut participants in Santa Paula. 

Lazenby said, “The Great Shakeout is our chance to practice how to protect ourselves when big earthquakes happen, and to get prepared for a quick recovery,” especially as public safety responders will not be able to serve all, only those needing the most urgent attention.