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Saturday quake sets off alarms, does little damage

by John Tawa

The magnitude 7.1 Hector Mine earthquake, which struck Saturday morning, did little damage in Manhattan Beach but gave public safety officials another opportunity to test their natural disaster preparations in case a more significant quake hits closer to home one day.

At the fire department, the first thing firefighters did was pull the rigs out of the station.

"We don't want the rigs trapped in the station," Fire Chief Dennis Groat said.

"Then we inspect the facilities to see if we're still operable or if there are any hazardous conditions," Groat continued. Neither the fire nor the police station meets current seismic safety standards, one principal reason that new public safety facilities are considered city priorities.

"Beyond that, it's complicated," the chief explained. "It depends on how bad the earthquake is. We determine that based on damage to the station and surrounding area, the number of emergency calls, power outages and columns of smoke filling the sky."

If the earthquake is significant, a survey of the city is conducted. That wasn't done this time, Groat said, because there was only one report of damage, cracks in a pool that caused it to leak. A survey was conducted after the Northridge quake in 1994, however.

"The Northridge one was significantly different," Groat said. "That one you knew was bad. This one rolled through town. It didn't feel as bad."

At the police station, beyond inspecting the facility, officers conducted a survey of the city's infrastructure to make sure that intersections were safe and traffic signals operational.

"We're out there looking for safety hazards in any kind of natural disaster," said Captain Paul Marshall.

Fortunately, the Hector Mine quake did not create any safety risks.

"We did have a lot of false alarms set off by the tremor and we responded to each one of them," Marshall said. ER

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©1999 Interface Intl. Communications • ©1999 Easy Reader, Inc., Used by Permission

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