The possibility of a big earthquake is a lingering possibility in the minds of most Californians. There have been many 3.0 earthquakes in recent weeks around the Los Angeles area, in addition to more small quakes occurring daily in Southern California.
Those who have grown up in the state have participated in earthquake drills throughout elementary, middle and high school to prepare for the day that a much bigger quake hits. According to seismologists, the foreshadowed “Big One” is overdue and will inflict heavy damage on California infrastructure, negatively affecting the lives of its residents.
Under President Trump’s recently proposed budget, the plan eliminates federal funding to further the development of an earthquake warning system in California, which would alert Californians of earthquakes within seconds or minutes of an earthquake. In the face of such natural disasters, with or without a warning system, USC must take strides to ensure maximum preparedness for its students and faculty through mandatory earthquake training and University-wide disaster evacuation and response plans.
Considering the great possibility of a large earthquake in the near future, USC students are dangerously unprepared. While those who have grown up in California may be familiar with earthquake safety procedures, many students who come from outside the Pacific Rim have never participated in any type of earthquake drill.
According to the Administrative Operations page of USC’s website, the University participates in an annual Trojan ShakeOut Drill, which took place most recently on Oct. 20. However, many students were not aware that such a drill took place. Furthermore, while the event coincided with a statewide earthquake drill, it took place about two months after freshman students had moved in to USC in August.
Even if every student had participated in the ShakeOut on Oct. 20, first-year students who came from a state or country where earthquakes do not occur had to live in Southern California for at least two months without any form of earthquake preparation. Students who entered USC in Spring 2016 went 10 months without participating in a drill. In addition to an already low participation rate in the annual drill, students are still not being prepared for earthquakes upon their arrival at USC.
Under the current presidential administration, the prospect of developing a warning system is bleak. However, even a technologically advanced warning system would be ineffective without knowledge of earthquake safety and preparedness.
Earthquake education and awareness are critical to help ensure students’ safety during a natural disaster. As a university in the heart of Southern California, USC must be responsible for preparing its students and faculty for the worst possible scenario. It is vital for the University to take action and act vigilantly.
Regardless of Trump’s budget decisions, USC must make earthquake awareness a high priority for its students and faculty. Earthquake training should not come only in the form of an annual drill. In addition, there should be training during orientation for new students and within respective residential colleges and university housing, supplemented by mandatory drills for all students and faculty at the beginning of each semester.
The 1994 Northridge earthquake was the most recent “Big One” to occur in Southern California. With a magnitude of 6.7 on the Richter scale, it claimed 57 lives, injured an upwards of 8,700 people and caused approximately $20 billion in damage.
According to the United States Geological Survey video, “Preparedness Now: The Great California ShakeOut,” in the event of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake, there will be 1,800 deaths, 53,000 injuries and damages totaling $213 billion. The video also notes that the region south of the San Gabriel mountains, where USC is located, is overdue for a large earthquake by about 150 years. USC cannot afford to neglect earthquake awareness, because whether students are prepared for an earthquake or not, a big one is coming.