By Jannelle So

If we want massive destruction, thousands of lives perishing at one time and people suffering, nature can take care of that with natural calamities such as the 8.9 magnitude earthquake that hit Japan on Friday and the subsequent tsunamis that occurred around the Pacific Ocean.

There’s really no need for man-made disasters such as the ongoing wars and widespread violence simultaneously happening in different parts of the globe, most notable in parts of the Middle East. To me, this is one of the biggest take-aways from this tragedy.

And then there’s the issue of preparedness. Since the quake struck, reporters have been talking about how calm the Japanese were, emphasizing that being a quake-prone country, people have been trained on how to react when situations like this arise. There are articles written about how many lives were spared because the Japanese knew what to do. Which begs the question: If something like that were to strike here in California; and science suggests it’s not a question of “if” but a question of “when;” how prepared are we?

I was still living in the Philippines when the Northridge earthquake occurred on January 17, 1994. The shakeup that lasted for about 45 seconds and registered a 6.7 magnitude resulted to at least 33 deaths and more than over 8,700 injured. Pictures tell a whole lot more than these numbers, though. And people who experienced that incident still clearly remember where they were, what they were doing and how horrifying it was.

I have the same recollection of the 1990 Baguio earthquake in the Philippines. I was in high school when the 7.7 magnitude quake hit for about 45 seconds. I was one of the only few students waiting to get picked up from school when all of a sudden I heard the glass doors shaking. I tried to stand up to walk away from it in case it broke or fell, but the ground underneath was also shaking. That’s when I knew an earthquake was going on. It was dizzying and obviously terrifying.

And so the thought of experiencing something like that, here in California, where it’s supposed to be stronger because we are perched atop the San Andreas Fault line, is actually alarming. This was one of the things that crossed my mind as I watched the compelling images coming out of Japan. We can’t really contend with nature’s wrath. There’s no stopping natural calamities. But as Japan has proven in the light of this earthquake and the series of powerful tidal waves that followed, we can be prepared to minimize damage and destruction.

What we can do now:

• Survey your home and figure out safe spots: under sturdy tables, against inside walls.

• Learn how to shut off gas and electricity in case the lines are damaged.

• Prepare an emergency kit that contains 1) a Ziplock bag for important documents such as insurance, passport, identification card, to avoid damage to those in case of an emergency;

2) a list of emergency phone numbers;

3) working flashlight with extra batteries;

4) potable water;

5) non-perishable food;

6) extra set of clothing, including underwear.

What to do during:

• If indoors: DROP, take COVER (usually under a sturdy table), HOLD ON to your cover. If it moves, move with it.

• If outdoors, stay in a clear area, away from trees, poles, electrical wires, buildings.

• If in a public place/crowded area, do not rush to the exit.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have complied earthquake preparedness publications that include guides and safety checklists. Check out

Jannelle So is Host/Producer of “Kababayan LA” that airs daily at 4:30pm on KSCITV-LA18. Catch previous programs at Email her at