Chile earthquake: How California would fare
If California experienced an earthquake like the one that rocked Chile, strict building codes and a culture of preparedness are on its side, but citizens have to take responsibility, observers say.
In Pictures More images of Chile's earthquake
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Because it lies on the San Andreas fault, the tectonic boundary between the Pacific and the North American plates, California’s vulnerability to earthquakes has been well-documented since the late 1800s. Because building codes call for steel reinforcements – some tall buildings are even built on rolling foundations – the physical devastation to man-made structures that would happen here in a massive earthquake would be far less than Haiti or Chile.
“Alongside Texas and Florida, California really has outstanding institutional preparedness for a major disaster,” says Mr. Paulison. “It has proven over and over during its wildfires that it also has probably the greatest mutual aid system in the country, the ability to share and coordinate equipment and personnel with neighboring states, counties and locales. I am completely comfortable that the state emergency network is in place to best deal with a catastrophic disaster of epic proportions. They’ve asked all the right questions, designed and funded the appropriate programs.”
What Paulison and other veteran observers are not comfortable with, however, is the question of personal responsibility: the issue of whether residents have taken the time to sufficiently map out where they would go, how they would get there – and that they have enough food and water to live comfortably without public assistance for three to four days.
“We’ve seen this over and over – from Katrina to the hurricanes in Florida – that despite the long lead-time warnings of these disasters, people did not plan correctly and thus millions became homeless,” says Paulison.
Paulison is just back from Haiti, where 2.5 million are homeless. “They have nowhere to go and the devastation and living conditions are unbelievable,” he says. Likewise, in Chile, a reported 200,000 are homeless. A million were homeless after Katrina, he says.
“These present incredible problems because people have to go out on the streets. Things would be so much different and easier for relief efforts if these people had planned to have flashlights and radios and batteries – as well as drinking water and food for up to four days. There is no reason individuals can’t be ready for this.”