Recent earthquakes cause local leaders to stand up and take notice

Chamber of Commerce making sure business community is protected

About 6:30 a.m. March 17, local residents were awakened by a magnitude 4.4 temblor, which originated on a fault line near Encino in the Santa Monica Mountains.

The earthquake rattled nerves, but no damage or injuries were reported.

Within days, a magnitude 5.1 earthquake struck the densely populated L.A. region. The temblor occurred shortly after 9 p.m. Fri., March 28 in La Habra, causing merchandise to topple from store shelves, isolated power outages and ruptures in some water pipelines. The quake was followed by hundreds of aftershocks.

No lives were lost.

Smaller quakes should serve as reminders that the “big one” could happen without warning, said guest speakers from the U.S. Small Business Administration and Las Virgenes Municipal Water District at a recent Calabasas Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

The March 27 presentation at the Calabasas Country Club coincided with the 50th anniversary of a magnitude 9.2 1964 Alaska earthquake.

“We never really think about it until it happens . . . (but) disaster preparedness should be an everyday thing,” said Mark Randle, public information officer with the SBA’s office of disaster assistance, who shared tips on what small to midsize businesses can do to minimize losses in the event of a major disaster.

In addition to having emergency kits, fastening shelves to the walls and holding regular earthquake drills, businesses should have plans in place that will enable them to get back to work as quickly as possible after an emergency.

Among other things, companies should have financial reserves, backup vendors and an alternate location in which to conduct their business.

Since natural and man-made disasters can be disruptive at home and at work, preparation is indispensable.

For instance, the response after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York was controlled, quick and effective because then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani had been preparing for a large-scale emergency.

But in the British Petroleum oil spill in 2010, the response to deal with the crisis was slow because the company didn’t have an adequate plan.

Whether it’s a natural or man-made disaster, “the first 72 hours, you’re pretty much on your own,” Randle said. “The idea of being prepared is to help you through it when it happens.”

Disasters can become an opportunity for businesses that are prepared, said David Pedersen, general manager for the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, who said the district has a program in place to check critical facilities and communicate with the public in the event of a disaster.

“The first thing everybody wants is information,” Pedersen said. “They want to know what’s going on.”

While complete recovery from a major crisis could take months, the district is ready to do whatever it can to restore service as quickly as possible, he said.

If imported water supplies from Northern California are unavailable, LVMWD could use water stored in tanks and its 3-billion-gallon open reservoir in Westlake Village to supply fresh water to local residents for up to six months.

The district has backup power sources to keep water flowing in case of a prolonged power interruption.

With regard to residents and businesses, Pedersen said everyone should have at least 3 gallons of potable water per person on hand, and should know where their utility connections are and make sure they are functional.

Tools will be required to shut off the gas or water if leaks occur, Pedersen said.

Hank Yuloff, who owns the advertising company Promotionally Minded, said he understands the value of planning.

“ Within my business, I make sure all our computers are backed up, on the cloud and on a hard drive,” the businessman said, remarking that he would use his laptop computer to serve clients from an alternate location if his offi ce was damaged.

Realizing that his marketing services probably won’t be a priority for customers affected by a disaster, Yuloff said he also has money set aside to protect his business interests.

Calabasas Mayor David Shapiro said he plans to promote increased awareness in his community.

“The city is prepared, but residents need to work together to help themselves, and my goal is to help them be prepared and be interested,” he said.

“It’s important for the community to know what to do. The best chance you have of protecting yourself is to have a neighborhood-based outreach program,” he said.

The recent earthquakes in Southern California are a wakeup call.

In the event of a major earthquake, first responders will be overwhelmed with calls. It could take days before firefi ghters and paramedics arrive, so it is up to individuals to be responsible for helping one another, and reducing the severity of injuries and damage in their own communities.

Calabasas is working on a Map Your Neighborhood program, which identifies skills and equipment available within a particular neighborhood, and outlines steps residents can take to secure their communities after an emergency.

The L.A. County Fire Department provides free emergency training through a Community Emergency Response Team. Classes are scheduled periodically in Calabasas, Agoura Hills and Westlake Village.

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