Chapman preparedness for California earthquakes

Southern California felt the aftershocks from the early July earthquakes that originated in Ridgecrest, which peaked at a 7.1 magnitude.

A common phrase many California natives might find themselves asking is, “Is this an earthquake?” as Southern Californians like Ana Vargas, a junior screenwriting major, navigate through shakes.

This summer, safety concerns rose after two large earthquakes on July 4 and 6, one of which hit 7.1 in magnitude. Ridgecrest, California has been hit with more than 80,000 earthquakes since July 4, according to KTLA5. The tremors and aftershocks of the 7.1 quake were felt as far away as parts of Los Angeles and Orange County. According to College Factual, 67 percent of Chapman students are from California and may have experienced the earthquakes this summer.

“I’ve experienced a lot of earthquakes since I’m from the Bay Area so they don’t really phase me as much anymore,” junior business administration major Olivia Medina said. “I was at my house and the whole house started to shake almost like a rolling motion and I realized it was an earthquake.” Ramesh Singh, an environmental science professor at Chapman, said that Southern California sits on tectonic plates.

“This stress is just like the blood pressure of humans: the same thing is in the earth. The stress builds up and might trigger earthquakes,” Singh said. Scientists work to predict earthquakes by using GPS to track the movement of the plates, but earthquakes are difficult to predict because of the variability in size, magnitude and location.

“I was at work during one (of the earthquakes): we were closing and the store is pretty rickety, so it was moving a lot and we were all freaking out,” Vargas said.

Even Vargas, who grew up in Los Angeles and learned how to deal with earthquakes, was still startled by them. “Our boss said to go under the counters and stay away from the glass,” Vargas said. “At home, I know to go downstairs.” Singh suggests that during an earthquake, people should seek shelter under a table and protect their head. If the earthquake seems severe, go outside if it’s safe to do so, he said.

Observing a fault line map to get a sense for where earthquakes are likely to occur is another helpful trick, Singh said. Singh added that Chapman’s newer structures like the Keck Center for Science and Engineering can sustain large amounts of earthquake activity, if one were to occur near Chapman’s campus.

“I feel safe (on campus) mostly because a lot of the buildings are either being remodeled or are new from the ground up,” Vargas added. Chapman’s campus also participates in the Great California Shakeout, a statewide earthquake drill where people practice drop, cover and hold. The next drill will be on Oct. 17. 2019.

Singh also teaches an Introduction to Earth Systems course at Chapman, where he covers several earthquake topics such as causes and effects, foreshocks and aftershocks. In an interview with Dave Sundby in October 2017, in the event of a damaging earthquake, students would be notified about community resources, where they should go, and which buildings have been potentially damaged.