Disasters can strike at any time, in any place. Whether "small-scale," such as the nearly 100 structure fires in Lancaster in 2009, or a major regional disaster such as 1994's Northridge earthquake, these incidents can and do disrupt our lives in a very significant way. Since it is not a matter of if but rather when a disaster will occur, it is important to be ready before it happens so you can ride it out.
Types of Disasters We Face
When we here in the Antelope Valley think of disasters, typically the first thing that comes to mind is an earthquake. It's only natural, since that is one of the most common and potentially devastating disasters that Californians in general face. Countless public service announcements, news articles, and even movies have dealt with seismic activity and drilled it into our heads that this is what we need to prepare for.
Earthquakes aren't the only disaster we face though, and let's be honest - while they are by far the most common event we experience, they are one of the least likely to produce any significant damage or disruption. Hundreds of minor earthquakes are recorded each day, the vast majority of which can't even be felt.
Fires on the other hand, such as 2009's Station Fire in the Angeles National Forest, the largest in Los Angeles County's history, or 2010's Crown Fire that swept from Agua Dulce to Quartz Hill in less than a day, are quite possibly the most devastating disaster that we as Southern Californians face each year. It's not just the large fires, either: many homes burn down every year that don't affect anyone but the family that lives there.
Other potential disasters that we face here in the Antelope Valley are wind (and we all know how strong that wind can get), which can in turn create dust storms like the one that caused the multi-fatality pileup on Highway 14 at Avenue D in October 2007; snow storms such as December 2008's day-long blizzard that left thousands of people stranded on either side of the Soledad Pass between the Antelope and Santa Clarita Valleys; flash floods from heavy rainfall following periods of drought; extended electrical outages (most likely to be a secondary disaster caused by an earthquake, fire, high winds, or other primary disaster); train derailments along the Union Pacific line that runs right through the heart of both Lancaster and Palmdale, which can also result in other problems such as chemical spills; and even terrorism, which is a very real possibility, due to our position right between Plant 42 in Palmdale and Edwards Air Force Base.
The good news is that if you're prepared for one disaster, you're prepared for just about anything that can happen. Think about what you put in your earthquake kit: water, non-perishable food, and first aid/other utility items. When the power goes out for two days due to wind and all the food in your refrigerator spoils as a result, your earthquake kit will supply your needs.
Preparing however, by definition, needs to be done in advance. Disasters can strike at any time, so the longer you put off getting ready, the less likely you'll be adequately prepared when one occurs. The task can seem daunting, so feel free to break it down into manageable chunks that you can tackle one at a time. It is better to be at least a little prepared than not at all, so do what you can, when you can, and you'll be one step closer to being ready for whatever might happen.
We've provided information and downloadable tip-sheets on a variety of topics, all of which are available using the links to the left. We suggest that you download and print them out to keep on hand, so that even if you don't read them now, you'll have the information at your fingertips when you need it. We've even suggested a 12-month plan to help you make disaster preparedness a realistic and attainable goal.
As with all Public Safety Office publications, these tip-sheets are also available from the Downloads page, as part of the "Be Ready" series.