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California reservists take part in earthquake exercise

  • Published
  • By Will Alexander
  • 452 AMW Public Affairs
Seismologists say it's not a matter of whether "The Big One" will hit California, it's a matter of when.

The threat of a catastrophic earthquake is what drove Dr. Lucy Jones of the U.S. Geological Survey to lead a team of 300 scientists, engineers, emergency managers and others to come up with a scenario that could shed light on the likely consequences of "The Big One."

"The Shakeout Earthquake Scenario" is the title of this year's Golden Guardian 2008, the largest state-sponsored emergency response exercise in the nation. It will take place throughout Southern California Nov. 6 - 18.

March ARB kicked off its main exercise at 10 a.m. Nov. 13. The EMS Authority and the Air and Army military reserve components associated with March will conduct a week of training events here.

The Golden Guardian 2008 scenario is based on a 7.8 magnitude earthquake, which 5,000 times larger than the 5.4 Chino Hills quake this summer. The exercise scenario has the quake erupting along the southern San Andreas Fault and lasting for up to three minutes. Such a quake could cause 2,000 deaths, 50,000 injuries, $200 billion in property damage and severe disruption, according to

The exercise aims to encourage Californians to be prepared for big quakes to help prevent a disaster from becoming a catastrophe.

"March will participate in this statewide exercise with the school districts and other private organizations," said Marv Tucker, chief of the 452nd Air Mobility Wing's Emergency Management Flight. "We have a plan of how we're going to recover this base, not only in the first few hours, but in 36 hours, 48 hours, 30 days, and 45 days as well. We're also going to make sure that we have good communications between what's on base and off the installation since there will be no cell phones, no land lines."

Although cell phones and land lines were down for several hours in some areas during the Chino Hills quake this summer, Marcie Burks said there were telling signs that the 5.4 quake wasn't "The Big One."

"The easiest way to tell how big an earthquake is, is to look at what's moving," said the former emergency management flight chief. "If my hanging plant is shaking, it's not a big deal. If my desk is moving, it's a big deal. Did your appliances move? Did you have trouble walking? Those kinds of things tell you when it's a big deal more than the number (magnitude)."

Big or small, it's critical to understand what must be done beforehand, so that responses are instinctive when a quake suddenly hits, said Joel L. Aspeytia II, an emergency management technician. He said the first thing to do is duck, drop to the floor, then take cover under a desk or table, and stay there for 20 seconds to make sure the shaking and falling objects have stopped.

"If you are on March ARB during an earthquake, evacuate the building and gather at your building's designated rallying point," he said. "If you're the first one out the door, grab the Emergency Response Notebook located near the exit. Then, account for personnel and assess damage."

Mr. Tucker said he will consider the exercise a success if people talk with each other after the exercise, know what to do if an earthquake happens, know where their children will go and have a plan for their homes.

"We know (a big earthquake) is going to happen," he said. "We just don't know when."  (Air Force Reserve Command News Service)