Disaster Strikes! Are You Ready?

The possibility of a natural disaster striking at any moment brings up the question: is it possible to be prepared, not only for the disaster itself, but for its aftermath, both physically and mentally? On Point reports with Lisa Curtis, Emergency Manager for CSUN’s Department of Police Services; Guillermo Sanchez, Preparedness Manager at the American Red Cross; CSUN Educational Psychology & Counseling Department Professor Jennifer Vargas Pemberton, and CSUN Counseling Services’ Lori Meono.

In the past 20 years, 600,000 people worldwide have died in natural disasters. These disasters are typically unexpected and often cause physical damage, but they can also take an emotional toll.

“The more preparedness, the better,” American Red Cross Preparedness Manager Guillermo Sanchez said. “Be better prepared, so that way it doesn’t impact you as much. People think preparedness is complicated, but it’s not: take simple steps.”

Organizations such as American Red Cross and CSUN’s Office of Emergency Management advise everyone to have a plan, not just for themselves, but for their families as well. Families should discuss a meeting place in case of emergency, and they should practice these plans. Having an out-of-state contact is encouraged. Residents should have household kits ready for when a disaster strikes. Some items people should include in their kits are: storable foods, water, sanitation products, and hygiene products. These items should also be updated every six months. CSUN’s Office of Emergency Management hosts events throughout the year for students, faculty and staff promoting emergency preparedness.

“A significant disaster such as a major earthquake is kind of an all-hands-on-deck situation,” said Lisa Curtis, Emergency Manager for CSUN’s Department of Police Services. “If the incident requires resources beyond those of the university, we will definitely be supported by assisting agencies from fire and police departments, as well Public Works and the Department of Public Health…depending on the scale of it. If it commands resources across the region and across the state, we could see resources coming in from multiple jurisdictions and multiple levels of government.”

Scientists say Southern California is due for a major earthquake. It’s possible a magnitude 8.2 quake could shake Los Angeles. A quake of that magnitude would be most destructive in the L.A. area because the San Andreas fault runs very close to and underneath densely populated areas. The U.S Geological Survey predicts an earthquake of such magnitude on the San Andreas would produce shaking more intense than the 1994 magnitude 6.7 earthquake that hit Northridge and killed 57 people. The quake had a large impact on  CSUN’s campus and the surrounding community.

The American Psychological Association says it’s normal for natural disasters to create unpredictable feelings in survivors: trouble concentrating or making decisions, disrupted sleeping patterns, and emotional upsets on anniversaries or other reminders. Psychological research shows that many are able to successfully recover from the emotional trauma of disasters. Taking active steps to prepare and to cope are important factors in having the ability to move forward.

“That’s another way of having a sense of control over something that is out of everyone’s control,” CSUN Educational Psychology & Counseling Department Professor Jennifer Vargas Pemberton said. “Anything you can do to be supportive of one another…It really gives us a sense that we can be part of the healing, and part of the restoration, and that really strengthens us and moves us forward.”

“What is most important is that people reach out to their support systems,” CSUN Counseling Services’ Lori Meono said. “Whether that’s friends, family, coworkers or whoever helps them feel safe…because one, I think, very common response, is that people lose a sense of safety. Having support can be really helpful.”

Moderator: Katherine Molina

Producer: Heatherann Wagner

Anchor: Lauren Turner Dunn

Social Media Editors: Cammeron Parrish and Heatherann Wagner

Reporters: Jacob Gonzalez, Katherine Molina, Cammeron Parrish, Haley Spellman, Lauren Turner Dunn and Heatherann Wagner

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