This century-old question increases in intensity in the wake of Japans devastating 9.0 magnitude earthquake. Please let us answer by responding to the following six questions...
What exactly does the Los Angeles Fire Department do when there’s an earthquake?
Whenever there is a detectable earthquake tremor anywhere in the city of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Fire Department initiates the “Emergency Earthquake Mode” (EEM). The quake does not have to reach a certain magnitude to initiate EEM.
When operating in the EEM, Firefighters from all 106 neighborhood fire stations promptly move to a designated safe area and then initiate a “windshield survey” of their District. In this manner, over 470 square miles in the greater Los Angeles area can be assessed in a matter of minutes. The Department’s six helicopters and five fire boats assist the appraisal. Firefighters rapidly assess:
• Transportation infrastructure (freeway over pass, rail lines, and airports).
• Large places of assemblage (stadiums, schools and universities, shopping malls).
• Critical facilities (hospitals, refineries, dams, power lines).
• High density residential (apartments, condominiums).
Once this process is complete, findings are immediately report back to Commanders allowing areas of concern to be quickly addressed.
What has LAFD done to be more prepared?
Los Angeles has a sound plan and trains frequently to the plan. The LAFD hosts a number of simulations, drills and rallies to prepare citizens for a large-scale earthquake. For example:
• Last October was “The Great California Shake Out” where millions practiced Drop, Cover, and Hold On to protect oneself during an earthquake.
• The “Golden Guardian” exercise in 2008 was a mock 7.8 magnitude earthquake along a southern stretch of the San Andres Fault.
• "The L.A. Earthquake Get Ready Rally” was conducted in November of 2008.
• “Operation: Shake Rattle and Roll” is part of the City’s Annual Emergency Preparedness Exercise, where your Los Angeles Firefighters also participate in this exercise.
• “Duck, Cover, and Hold On”, drills are practiced in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
These drills allowed First Responders and Emergency Managers to practice their skills to rescue, triage, treat and transport injured, conduct assessments of damage to infrastructure, and coordinate mutual aid along with practice immediate response with federal installations in the region.
The Los Angeles Fire Department utilizes the Incident Command System (ICS) for control. The ICS is a standardized approach to incident management that:
• Enables a coordinated response among various jurisdictions and agencies.
• Establishes common processes for planning and managing resources.
• Allows for the integration of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures, and communications operating within a common organizational structure.
ICS is the foundation for the National Incident Management System (NIMS), and is a "best practice" that has evolved to become the standard for emergency management across the country.
Does the LAFD have a current preparedness program for citizens?
LAFD has a Unit specifically designated for Disaster Preparedness. This Unit heads a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program. More than 30,000 Angelino’s have received CERT training.
This program Enables members of the community to assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to help. Citizens are educated about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trained in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search-&-rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations.
“Drop-Cover-Hold On” techniques are emphasized during annual training conducted at all LA City Elementary Schools through MySafeLA, an LAFD partner dedicated to providing fire and life safety education in the City of Los Angeles.
Additionally, all high-rise buildings 35 or more stories tall, within the City of Los Angeles are required to provide evacuation training on an annual basis.
What are we working on now to improve?
The LAFD is actively working to expand the CERT program, increase public awareness and preparedness when a disaster strikes. We also embarked on a “Resolve to be Ready” campaign, ensuring that families of LAFD members are prepared to function while they are away, working at an emergency, for extended periods.
The Los Angeles Fire Department hopes that you found this detailed information informative and timely. The LAFD will continue to ensure it remains a leader in the emergency services industry and provides unsurpassed Fire and EMS service to the citizens of Los Angeles.
We welcome your feed back to this century-old question, Is Los Angeles really ready for "The Big One".
"Serving with Courage, Integrity, and Pride"
Submitted by Erik Scott, Spokesman
Los Angeles Fire Department