Northridge Earthquake Anniversary Reminds Us the Importance of Being Prepared

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By Ken Striplin
City Manager

A little over a week ago we marked the 25th anniversary of the Northridge Earthquake. Early in the morning on January 17, 1994, a 6.7 magnitude earthquake, centered in Northridge, jolted the City of Santa Clarita. Although centered a few miles south, the quake was strong enough to cause substantial damage in our City. Most notably – the Newhall Pass interchange of Interstate 5 and State Route 14 collapsed, leaving Sierra Highway as the only open road in and out of the Santa Clarita Valley.  

Numerous services were disrupted in many parts of the City. Repairs were coordinated with other emergency services representatives to restore them — including electricity, gas, water and shelters.

Many buildings were damaged and unsafe to re-enter, including City Hall. Santa Clarita City officials and volunteers had no choice but to set up shop in the City Hall parking lot. That is where the emergency operations center had to be located and where local earthquake recovery efforts were accomplished – on folding tables and without the conveniences of computers and technology easily available today, such as the internet and smart phones. From this make-shift emergency operations center, City staff manned emergency hot lines 10 hours a day, receiving a high of 500 calls per hour.

In total, 5,000 block walls and 2,000 chimneys fell. One thousand, seven hundred mobile homes fell off their foundations and all of our bridges were damaged. With all of the debris from the ruins, recycling was very important to the City. A five-element debris removal plan was developed to handle the 240,000 tons of debris, 98 percent of which was recycled. It was estimated that there was over $400 million in damage to local businesses, and $29 million to City infrastructure.

Occurrences like these are one of the major reasons the City makes emergency preparedness a priority.  The following are some earthquake tips I’d encourage you to follow to ensure your family and friends stay safe in the event of an earthquake.

  • One way to prepare yourself, and your loved ones, is by having a plan for how you will escape your home, and practice that plan before an earthquake occurs. It is also equally important to know multiple ways to get in and out of the Santa Clarita Valley.
  • Do you have an out-of-state “check-in” contact? This person is someone you and your family can call to let them know you are safe.
  • Have an emergency kit ready to go in your home and in your vehicle. Make sure to note items that are specific to your needs such as medication, eye glasses, necessary devices and power sources.
  • Make copies of important and/or irreplaceable items and store them online or on an external drive. These items may include important documents and family photos.
  • Have a five to seven day supply of food items that are non-perishable and do not require cooking or refrigeration. Some ideas include ready-to-eat canned items, protein bars, dry cereal, dried fruit, peanut butter and canned juices.
  • When disaster strikes, there could be limited access to clean water. Make sure to store at least one gallon of water per person. Remember to store a supply for pets as well!

Each year, California generally experiences two or three earthquakes large enough to cause moderate damage to structures (magnitude 5.5 and higher). This means it is not a question about if an earthquake will strike, but when. I encourage you to learn more emergency tips by visiting Stay safe, Santa Clarita!

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