Great California ShakeOut hits March

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U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Master Sgt. David Smith

Team March members helped kick off the Great California ShakeOut on Thursday, Oct. 15. The exercise began at 10:15 a.m. with a simulated earthquake lasting three minutes. The first order of business was to drop, get cover under a desk and hold on.

The statewide earthquake exercise is designed to help prepare Californians for a large-scale earthquake. Millions of people worldwide simultaneously participate in these drills, which began in California in 2008, according to statistics listed at shakeout.org/California.

Once the shaking stopped March employees exited buildings to designated accountability sites.  The Emergency Operations Center was set up and activated.  Upon activation of the Emergency Operations Center base personnel performed necessary steps to ensure the base and surrounding community recovered from the earthquake and able to continue operations supporting recovery efforts.

“I believe the exercise went very well,” said Lt. Col. Aurthur Rodi, deputy commander, 452nd Mission Support Group. “It is always a challenge to conduct an exercise scenario that impacts the entire installation.  There are certain limitations that must be accommodated to be effective.”

The first responders and key communication nodes are well prepared to react to such an incident.

“We received good responses from our facility managers, providing us simulated casualty and facility damage reports,” Rodi said. “As always the training helped newly assigned members to understand the processes and procedures needed to be effective should an actual catastrophe occur.”

Once accountability was taken everyone got to work. Emergency units set up the triage center and began treating the inured. Law enforcement and the fire department began surveying the base to see how well facilities fared and to determine mission readiness.

“The objectives were met. (There’s) always a concern for response, reporting and accountability and we did well in all three areas,” said Robert Kaschak, emergency management technician, 452nd Civil Engineer Squadron. “Conducting a base exercise, while being careful not to disrupt real world missions, is always a challenge. People evacuated buildings to their rally points effectively and reports to the command and control center were turned in timely.”

Mission partners participated in the exercise to the extent practical to their mission sets, Rodi said. March member were also in contact with City/County Emergency Management teams as they conducted simultaneous scenarios.

“It is always necessary to be as inclusive as possible to help ensure all of our partners understand the need to account for our workforce and any facility structural damage that may occur from a major earthquake,” Rodi said.

Being ready takes practice and practice makes progress. Several factors can affect readiness, and results will depend on the day, time, amount of personnel on the base as well as the severity of the earthquake or other event, Kaschak said.

“Our goal is to ensure people know what to do and can react in a manner to keep them safe,” he said.

That’s exactly what this exercise is all about, to test their abilities to respond to a catastrophic event, Rodi said.

“We continue to hone our abilities to respond to a variety of incidences, whether a natural disaster or an aircraft mishap,” he said. “Each of these exercises provides that opportunity to ensure we can mitigate personnel, equipment, and facility losses, and the mission of the installation can continue.”

According to an article on the U.S. Geological Survey’s website, compared to the previous assessment issued in 2008, the second Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast (UCERF2), the estimated rate of (California) earthquakes around magnitude 6.7, the size of the destructive 1994 Northridge earthquake, has gone down by about 30 percent. The expected frequency of such events statewide has dropped from an average of one per 4.8 years to about one per 6.3 years.

The new model, referred to as the third Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast, or “UCERF3”, provides authoritative estimates of the magnitude, location, and likelihood of earthquake fault rupture throughout the state.

However, in the new study, the estimate for the likelihood that California will experience a magnitude 8 or larger earthquake in the next 30 years has increased from about 4.7 percent for UCERF2 to about 7.0 percent for UCERF3.

“We are fortunate that seismic activity in California has been relatively low over the past century. But we know that tectonic forces are continually tightening the springs of the San Andreas fault system, making big quakes inevitable,” said Tom Jordan, Director of the Southern California Earthquake Center and a co-author of the study. “The UCERF3 model provides our leaders and the public with improved information about what to expect, so that we can better prepare.”

Public service announcements advise Californians to plan and prepare for an earthquake in hopes of preventing a disaster from becoming a catastrophe.