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Earthquake Preparedness is Critical in Manhattan Beach

Feb 10, 2023 11:50AM ● By Jeanne Fratello
With news of a massive earthquake in Turkey - and with a recent widely-felt local earthquake - Manhattan Beach residents need to be prepared for what to do in case of the next "big one."

But preparing for an earthquake involves much more than simply securing heavy objects, according to a local emergency preparedness expert. 

Frank Chiella, board president of the Manhattan Beach Community Emergency Response Team (MBCERTA), told MB News that earthquake preparedness requires not only having your house ready for a large temblor, but also being ready to go as long as two weeks being cut off from utilities.

"We’re pretty far away from the San Andreas fault, so people say, 'Well, we'll probably not be as much affected in Manhattan Beach as people who live further east,'" said Chiella. "But the problem is, if we have an earthquake on the San Andreas fault, it’s going to go from south to north, and it’s going to cut across all of our major infrastructure - highways, water infrastructure, gasoline pipelines, natural gas, railroads. It's possible that we could be isolated for a long time."

Chiella continued: "Although we probably won’t have our buildings collapse, we could have problems with no water, no gasoline for our cars, no natural gas to cook or eat with, and our internet down. So that’s why we say we have to be prepared."

Families should know how to turn off their gas, electric, and water in case of emergency, noted Chiella. And they should have supplies to last up to two weeks - including two gallons of water per person, per day.

When he talks about what kind of supplies households should have on hand, Chiella said, people often tell him their plan is to "just run over to Vons or Target."

"But I think a lot of people woke up during the pandemic and realized that everybody else has that same idea," said Chiella.

Following are excerpts from MB News' conversation with Chiella about earthquake preparedness:

MBNews: What are the top things people should do around their homes to prepare for an earthquake? 

Chiella: First, you should know where your where your utility shutoffs are located. 

Around your house, the more things you can anchor down, the better off you’ll be. You should anchor heavy objects to studs in the walls: TVs, big shelves, and so on. In the kitchen, cabinets will open up and everything will come out. Consider putting childproof locks on your cabinets. That keeps things from flying around that are going to cut you or you will step on. 

Also, we don’t know what time of day an earthquake will come. You should have a flashlight - one that you know works - next to your bed. You should also have a sturdy pair of shoes right next to your bed in case you need to get up and walk around lots of things that are broken.

And of course you should have your emergency kits together so you’re prepared to have enough water and emergency supplies for up to two weeks. You should have two gallons of water per day per person. If you already have emergency kits, this is a good time to look at them and find out if the supplies need to be replenished or replaced.

You should also have an emergency kit in your car, with 2-3 days' worth of supplies, and the same thing at your office as well. If an earthquake strikes when you're away from your home, it might be a few days before the roads are clear enough for you to get back.

MBNews: What should you do to protect yourself during an earthquake? Do we still encourage people to stand in the nearest doorway?

Chiella: Your head is the most vital thing to protect. Getting in a doorway is not the best idea because you’re really not going to be protecting your head. Things are going to be falling over, things are going to be thrown across the room. You want to find a safe place wherever you are. In our area of the U.S., the safest place is usually under a sturdy table where you can protect yourself from things that are going to fall. So what they say is to drop down, cover your head - most likely under a table - and hold on to that table to keep it from moving.

During the pandemic, we saw what it was like when hospitals were overrun with COVID. Our hospitals run daily at about 80% capacity. During an earthquake they're going to be overrun.
A lot of people will end up with cuts and scrapes - those things they can take care of themselves. But you don't want a head injury.

MB News: What should people be prepared to do after an earthquake? 

Chiella: We have to think about what are the dangers after that initial shaking. When gas lines are cut, there are risks of fires.

We only have two fire engines that operate in Manhattan Beach every day. If several fires occur at once, a few fires at a time could turn into blocks on fire.

You need to know where the hazards in your house could be and how to mitigate them. You need to be able to know when to check your natural gas, how to shut your power off, and how to shut off water lines to your house to save the water you have in there.  Plus, everyone should have fire extinguishers and know how to use them. 

MB News: What resources does Manhattan Beach have available to help residents prepare for earthquakes?

Chiella: MBCERTA offers free Red Cross CPR/AED training and a free Basic CERT Training class for Manhattan Beach residents.

MBCERTA also offers a free "Map Your Neighborhood" disaster preparedness and response program for you and your immediate neighbors. An MBCERTA representative will come to your home and give you and your neighbors steps to take immediately after a disaster. They can show you how to prevent a small problem from becoming a big problem, and how to report your block’s status to your area’s CERT reporting location for the most effective way to get help from emergency services – even when the 911 system is down. This whole service is all local, supported by the fire department.

To get more information about organizing a meeting for your block, you can send a note to [email protected]

Editor's note: MBCERTA's next Red Cross CPR/AED training will be held on April 1 from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The next Basic CERT Training (a 20-hour class) will be held on May 5-7 (Friday, 6:00-10:00 p.m.; Saturday 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.; and Sunday 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.).

The Manhattan Beach Community Emergency Response Team Association (MBCERTA) is an all-volunteer, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization created to enhance disaster preparedness and emergency response for the citizens of Manhattan Beach. The group participates in community awareness events, various training programs, and drills and providing volunteer support to the Manhattan Beach Fire and Police Departments when a disaster strikes or upon activation by the Manhattan Beach Fire or Police Departments in the event of an emergency. For more information, see

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