LOS ANGELES, CA (10/12/09) – There is no doubt that earthquakes can be catastrophic. Ask anyone jolted to their senses by the early morning Northridge temblor on January 17, 1994. In addition to having a powerful moment magnitude of 6.7, the ground acceleration was one of the highest ever recorded in urban North America. A total of 72 Californians were killed and more than 9,000 suffered injuries. With phantom arms clutching an 85-mile radius, the natural disaster was one of the costliest in U.S. history – presenting just cause for the next “Big One” that could come to pass any day now.
“When the big one hits, our infrastructure will collapse and our roads will crumble," predicts animal welfare expert Leo Grillo as he prepares Southern California for its next major disaster.
“There have already been a marked increase in the number of shakers in this region since the beginning of this month, so the warning signs are all around us,” said actor/animal welfare expert Leo Grillo, who has been working around the clock with earthquake preparedness officials by helping alert as many communities and associations as he can between today and Thursday’s statewide drill. Grillo is founder and president of D.E.L.T.A. Rescue, the largest animal sanctuary of its type in the world and home of two state-of-the-art veterinary hospitals.
“Not only will you be frightened, but your animals will be petrified. You have to remain in control for their sakes,” said Grillo, a world-renowned animal rescuer and founder of Horse Rescue of America. “And the best way to calm your own anxiety is to have made preparations, to have a plan, and to follow that plan.”
On October 15, 2009, Grillo’s organization will join millions of Californians living in the “Earthquake Capital of the World” and practice what is known as the “Drop, Cover and Hold On” drill, an exercise designed to save lives by promoting and demonstrating quick reaction. At exactly 10:15 a.m., Grillo will instruct his medical and administrative staff of 70 to drop to the floor or ground and take cover under a desk or table, or wherever else they happen to be at the moment.
Grillo’s staff will then hold on for dear life as if a real-time earthquake had just ruptured. His employees will maintain position for the length of time the instructional California Institute of Technology scenario specifies. “At our location,” said Grillo, “the shaking will be for fifteen seconds, though Santa Monica will last for sixty-five seconds.” The moment magnitude of the ravaging Northridge quake was twelve seconds long.
At Grillo’s direction, employees will look around and imagine what would happen in the event of a major earthquake. Their imaginings could be a story of horror. Grillo warns that the aftershocks can be even more dangerous since some structures are already weakened by the previous quake.
“During Thursday’s drill, we’ll then create mental images of what our lives would be like afterwards,” said Grillo, whose 1,500 animals at the sanctuary would be afraid and tremble during an earthquake. “Our animals will need calming, as will your pets. We must be there for them, soothing their fears,” he added.
Some researchers believe that animals feel precursors in the form of mounting cerebral pressure, stemming from their ability to receive low frequency electromagnetic signals. “I used to have a cat who climbed the walls days before a quake,” said Grillo. He said a general uneasiness exhibited by animals prior to a natural disaster is a leading indicator. “That’s our warning that there can be an event. Maybe not a big one, and perhaps not a reported one, but it’s there,” Grillo added.
Even humans have been known to experience a persistent headache that can last for weeks and suddenly vanish before a temblor hits. And some dogs have been documented to have an urge to chew on willow bark, from which aspirin is derived, in an attempt to self-medicate prior to an earthquake.
Grillo said his staff will be wholly committed to safeguarding animals during the quake. D.E.L.T.A. Rescue received no significant damage following the Northridge temblor. “Just broken water lines,” he said. When the big one hits, Grillo says the Cajon Pass infrastructure will collaspe – resulting in water, gas and electrical outages, plus a shutdown of freight transport for up to four months in some areas.
Grillo feels that D.E.L.T.A. Rescue, which is located northeast of Los Angeles, will be able to withstand another major disaster. “Our structures are strong because they’re all newer and built to code,” Grillo said. “Even my straw bale dog houses are designed to take any quake.” Grillo’s plan of action proves promising since seismologists are now on edge as are those whose on-going mission is to save lives.
Since officials are unable to pinpoint the exact time the next calamitous earthquake will occur, Grillo says D.E.L.T.A. Rescue will remain in disaster readiness mode from this point on, particularly since landslides could develop in the wake of recent wildfire devastation. Pictured: Chief veterinarian Dr. Gaylord Brown in active surgery.
Grillo said D.E.L.T.A. Rescue has already stockpiled sleeping bags and MRE’s (Meals, Ready-to-Eat) for its staff. Water storage tanks have been placed throughout the 150-acre sanctuary. As many as 1,000 emergency blankets for the dogs are in ready reserve. Moreover, the hospitals are equipped with a six-month supply of emergency medical supplies and pharmaceuticals.
“We are working on emergency electricity now. It has to be solar-powered as generators require fuel that will be unavailable,” said Grillo. A fully-equipped firetruck and firefighting apparatus are at the ready. D.E.L.T.A. Rescue has also set aside a two-month supply of dry and canned food for dogs and cats, in addition to hay for horses and burros.
“We’re also warning everyone about the real probability of falling rocks and other debris,” continued Grillo. “People think mountainous regions are immune to earthquake damage, but they’re sorely misled. We’re just as victimized as those living along the coastal region of Los Angeles, where tsunamis triggered by earthquakes remain a posing threat.”
Grillo is also training his staff and community to “drop, cover and hold on” during aftershocks which can occur minutes, days, weeks, even months after an earthquake. He advises pet owners to watch their pets closely because they may become disoriented during and after a temblor.
“Animals might try to escape from your property due to broken fencing,” Grillo cautioned. He also wants owners to be aware of hazards at the level of their pet’s nose and paw. “I’m referring to debris, chemicals and anything else that’s dangerous to humans. If it’s toxic to us, it can be lethal to them,” he added.
Starting October 12 and continuing as often as practicable, the entire world will be able to track Grillo’s unpredictable journey to constantly safeguard pets during a natural disaster by following his up-to-the-minute blog at www.deltarescue.org. There, Grillo will address pet and livestock issues for both the mountains and coastal regions of Southern California. Those visiting his Web site will also be able to view Cal Tech’s official presentation and video.
“While we can not stop a huge shaker from occurring, we can at least get ready for it by making a plan and following it through to the end,” said Grillo. “We all need to be in control of our own survival, for our children’s sake and for the best interest of our animals. The countdown has already begun.”
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