LB Earthquake

Image taken from the Long Beach CERT Facebook page shows damage from the 1933 Long Beach earthquake.

The first-ever READY Long Beach Community Preparedness Expo, hosted by the Long Beach Fire Department Community Emergency Response Team and other city departments, will take place Saturday, October 4 at Heartwell Park.

At the free event, residents can learn how to better prepare for disasters like earthquakes, fires, floods and even acts of terrorism. The CERT program trains residents in basic disaster response skills such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization and first aid. Mayor Robert Garcia said the event will go a long way to help Long Beach citizens be more self sufficient in the aftermath of a large scale disaster where response times from public agencies may be cut off, forcing residents to rely on their own skills and supplies.

“By the time a disaster occurs, the time for preparation has passed,” Garcia said in a statement. “This event will give Long Beach residents critical information they need before to prepare for any disasters that may happen, so that they can be ready to help themselves, their families and their neighbors.”

Long Beach Fire Department spokesmen Jake Heflin said that disaster preparedness varies from community to community, but cited the Long Beach earthquake of 1933 as a reminder that people need to stop ignoring the need for a plan and to have supplies ready to go in the event of an emergency. The earthquake, which struck off the coast of Long Beach created an estimated $50M in damage and killed 120 people, most of whom were injured from falling debris as they ran out of buildings.

“History tells us that people aren’t prepared and that we need to take steps to ensure that we’re enhancing that level of engagement,” Heflin said. Citing a figures provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Heflin added “50% of Americans haven’t discussed their families emergency plan and that’s just not good enough.”

A film created by FEMA’s Ready Kids campaign and the Ad Council partnered with Disney.

Heflin said preparedness can start with something as simple as placing a pair of shoes and a flashlight under your bed, so that in the event of an earthquake, residents don’t become a casualty of broken glass. Not becoming part of the problem will help the fire department better allocate sources during a disaster. He also addressed the misconception that it’s always necessary to turn off the gas after an earthquake, stating that it should only be done if gas can be heard leaking or can be smelled escaping the line.

What isn’t an understatement, though, is the need to have a supply of drinkable water, at least a gallon per person per day, according to Heflin.

“People have a perception that water is going to be readily available and it may not be,” Heflin said. “We need to make sure that individuals understand, and families understand that they need to have enough water to last them for at least 3 days and if not 7-10 days depending on the severity of the event.”

The expo will include a fun zone for kids, food for purchase as well as emergency response vehicles on display. Residents will learn the basics to being prepared, like how to build a family evacuation response and how to engage neighbors in planning for disasters as well as learn how to build their own preparedness kits. Additionally, Heflin said that the first 1,500 or so attendees will receive a free disaster kit provided by Saint Mary’s Medical Center.

“We always think that it’s not going to happen to me,” Heflin said. “And the reality is we have to get out of that mindset. We have to realize that we do need to take steps today, right now, this saturday October 4th, to make sure that we’re prepared.”

Heartwell Park is located at 5801 East Parkcrest Street, Long Beach, CA 90808 near the intersection of Clark Avenue and Carson Street. The event will be held from 10AM to 5PM and is free to the public.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.