The thoughts of others
Were light and fleeting,
Of lovers meeting,
Or luck or fame.
Mine were of trouble,
And mine were steady;
So I was ready
When trouble came.
A.E. Housman, quoted by Robert Obergfell
The topic was disaster preparedness when Emergency Operations Coordinator Robert Obergfell spoke at the Ridgecrest Republican Women Federated luncheon Nov. 22. With over four months since the Ridgecrest earthquakes July 4 and 5, it was a good time to reflect on the historic quakes.
Obergfell, who also worked for the Ridgecrest Police Department for 22 years as an officer and then a sergeant, spoke then led a lively question and answer session on lessons learned from the quakes and how they apply to other disasters.
"We had a seismic issue, does anyone remember that?" Obergfell asked -- causing everyone to laugh.
He later reported that "We currently have about 160 homes from our 7.1/6.4 earthquake affair" that are significantly damaged.
"We live in earthquake country," he said, emphasizing the theme of his talk. "We should be ready at all times. We should have a plan."
Obergfell said that a lot of emergency preparedness -- for all disasters -- has to do with common sense.
"It doesn't have to be very grandiose, it can be very basic."
Specific suggestions include: letting your family or significant others know where you will be if you can't make it home during an emergency; having a plan for if you happen to be on the road during a crisis; having a land-line phone available; writing down important phone numbers; keeping a 30-day supply of necessary medications on hand; keeping gas in your car and keeping flashlights in a readily accessible location with good batteries. He also urged keeping a large supply of toilet paper -- it is a highly-popular traded commodity in times of crisis.
Obergfell noted that most people have much of what they need in an emergency in their homes, but it should be in a place that is accessible when lights and power are out. He also urged people not to shut off gas unless they smell as gas leak since it can take up to 14 days to have the gas company turn it back on. (People are not supposed to turn their gas back on themselves.)
He also suggested keeping chlorine on hand. The first response to an emergency should be to plug your bathtub and fill it with water in case water becomes scarce.
Also important is a "bug out bag" or "bug out bucket" filled with essentials that can be grabbed in the event of urgent evacuation.
Obergfell urged anyone wanting more intense emergency training to attend free training from the local Community Emergency Response Team or CERT organization. (See ready.gov or Ridgecrest-ca.gov for more information on CERT.)
He also emphasized the importance of preparedness in terms of a mental state.
"Most Americans wander around in what we call condition white," he said, which means no awareness of potential threats. Condition yellow involves a certain level of awareness and attention. With condition orange, "you know something is going to happen." Condition red includes putting an emergency plan into effect. The unfortunate condition black involves "sensory overload and panic."
Obergfell advocated preparedness without panic. He gave a sobering statistic. Even with the appropriate number of law enforcement and emergency responders in the greater Ridgecrest area, there are still something like 1,000 citizens to every first responder. This means, in brief, that "you might have to be your own first responders" as well as potentially assisting your neighbors, so alertness is key.
Everyone who was in Ridgecrest for the historic events has their own earthquake story. Obergfell told his.
"I was in the Toyko House," he said. "The 7.1 hit and I slid underneath the sushi bar. I watched people trip over each other and bounce off the tables as they scrambled to get out."
Obergfell emphasized that getting under a table is frequently a better strategy than trying to get outside.
Obergfell ended his talk on a poetic note. The relevant quote at the beginning of the article, he said, was sent to him by someone after the Ridgecrest quakes.