Pinch of Salt Graphic (English)

When the earth moves, we tend to pay attention.

The Ridgecrest earthquake — the one on July 5, not the one on July 4 — had our house rocking and rolling, and our dog running for cover. This is in Long Beach, more than 130 miles from the epicenter, as the crow flies.

As far as I know, we didn't suffer any damage (I don't know how to check the foundation beyond looking for big cracks). At last report, there wasn't any damage anywhere in Long Beach.

I sympathize with those in Ridgecrest and the smaller towns in the area who did have to deal with damage, and as of this writing are still having nerves jangled by aftershocks. The fact the second quake was bigger than the first surely isn't doing their sense of safety any good.

Up and down California, officials are banging the pots and pans, urging everyone to "take this as a wakeup call." You see, it has been a good 20 years since we've seen an earthquake that topped 7 on the Richter scale. And everyone knows the Big One is just around the corner.

The Big One has been just around the corner since before I moved to earthquake central more than 27 years ago. And despite the Chicken Little feel of the constant warnings, I still think that's true. At least I think we need to be prepared as if it's true.

I experienced a couple of pretty big quakes in the first few years I was in Long Beach. I still vividly remember the Northridge Earthquake in 1994, with its significant damage and its many deaths and injuries. Long Beach was spared the worst of it, again by being pretty far away from the epicenter, with no injuries and fairly minimal damage. But watching almost-neighbors suffer and experiencing some significant shaking firsthand convinced me the Big One was more than a bedtime story to scare the kiddies.

So these days, I'm prepared, at least sort of. I've got a week's supply of water frozen in the garage freezer, along with some food that simply can't go bad. I've got a tent, sleeping bags, etc. in case we have to rough it.

Maria's gone through CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training, and I was a Boy Scout some 50 years ago. Okay, that last might not be overly helpful, but I can hope I'll remember a little.

I've also signed up with the Alert Long Beach system. That's an emergency alert system put in place by our city government that notifies you when there's an emergency or severe weather that might disrupt services or endanger residents. They send you a text message, voice message or email (your choice) and keep you informed.

But it doesn't work if you don't sign up for it. The process is so easy I was able to do it, so I'm sure you could too. Just go to the city's website,, and click on the Alert Long Beach logo.

I'm not as prepared for the Big One as I ought to be. We don't have detailed action plans, I don't have an emergency backpack, etc., etc. And I can't convince myself to spend hundreds of dollars each year on earthquake insurance.

But I'm thinking about it all, and I have at least done a few things. Because when the earth moves, I pay attention.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

Load comments