Centennial Flashback: Chapter Helps Earthquake Victims Since 1925

ARC_CentennialLogo_Tagline_LARegionThroughout the Red Cross Month of March, the Red Cross Los Angeles Region is Celebrating its 100 Years of Service with a series titled: Centennial Flashback.  This will be a historical snapshots about the Red Cross L.A. Chapter in action during the past 100 years

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Caption: Residents line up for Red Cross assistance after the 1933 Long Beach earthquake.

During the month of April, which is Earthquake Preparedness Awareness Month, the Los Angeles Chapter joins other organizations and government agencies in urging Southern Californians to prepare for a major earthquake.

The chapter has had much experience with major earthquakes, beginning with a 6.8 magnitude quake in Santa Barbara in 1925.  It was followed by earthquakes centered in:  Long Beach, 1933, 6.4 magnitude; Kern County, 1952, 7.3; Sylmar, 1971, 6.7; Whittier Narrows, 1987, 5.9; and Northridge, 1994. 6.9.

Although some of the earthquakes were not centered within the chapter area, chapter disaster workers were called upon to provide major assistance, simply because the chapter was the largest and best prepared to respond.

Many can remember the Sylmar Earthquake.  It forced the evacuation of 80,000 people, and the chapter sheltered 17,000 and assisted some 11,000 families.  Cost was $1.3 million.

Most of us can remember the Whittier Narrows earthquake, which also greatly affected our chapter area.  There were an estimated 10,000 buildings damaged or destroyed, 14,642 families assisted by Red Cross, 21 Red Cross shelters opened and 195,000 meals served.

Best remembered, perhaps, is the Northridge Earthquake, the largest local disaster to which the chapter has ever responded.  At that time, the earthquake was unique in several ways. Families fleeing Southern California were sheltered by Red Cross chapters in Las Vegas, Phoenix and Denver.  Family services opened cases for families in Las Vegas, Fresno, Phoenix, Denver and many other locations throughout the country, just as chapters did following Hurricane Katrina.. Disaster welfare inquiries came from around the world and were handled by a Red Cross center in Las Vegas.

One of the 18 Red Cross service centers was located in a huge tent in Northridge and was designated a “super center.”  It welcomed many prominent visitors, including then national American Red Cross President Elizabeth Dole.

As a result of this major earthquake, Red Cross: opened 47 shelters that housed 22,004 people, served 1.3 million meals; provided mental health counseling for 39,726 people; handled 16,002 disaster welfare inquiries; and provided assistance for 33,700 families; all at a cost of more than $36 million.

As if all that weren’t enough, the chapter also provided major assistance after the 1983, 6.5 magnitude Coalingua Earthquake and the 1989, 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta Earthquake in the Bay Area.

Over the years, the chapter has been a key advocate for local earthquake preparedness.

 

By Barbara Wilks

Chapter Historian

 

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