Even though there has been unprecedented movement on the Garlock Fault line, Kern County is prepared for an earthquake, no matter when it happens, and no matter how strong it is.
That's according to Megan Person, director of communications for Kern County, who said the county's first responders are prepared no matter what disaster may come.
This comes after a Caltech study reported the Garlock Fault line, which runs near Mojave, Tehachapi and Frazier Park and is capable of a magnitude 8 temblor, has begun to move as a result of the July earthquakes that struck Ridgecrest.
"The movement of the Garlock Fault is certainly an important item for us to be aware of," Person said. "However, it does not change our emergency preparedness plan as a county."
The Garlock Fault, which runs 185 miles from the San Andreas Fault to Death Valley, has not moved much over the past 500 years, the study said. But the Ridgecrest quakes caused the fault line to move, or to start creeping, about two centimeters since July, the study said. This is a special type of fault behavior in which the fault line slowly begins to move, according to Zachary Ross, assistant professor of geophysics at Caltech.
"We still need to perform additional research to understand the full significance of this," Ross said. "It is surprising because we have never observed this before on the Garlock Fault."
An earthquake on this fault could affect a substantial portion of California — including Kern County, Ross said.
But Kern County's first responders are prepared in the event an earthquake occurs.
Hall Ambulance, for example, has a recall system in place that contacts every employee within minutes to respond to any emergency, according to Mark Corum, spokesman for Hall Ambulance. This recall system was most recently used in the Ridgecrest earthquakes "with great success," Corum said.
"When a disaster hits and you're an ambulance provider, you need to be able to not only respond to the needs of the disaster, but you also have to continue to provide services to 911 calls that aren't disaster related," Corum said. "Sometimes, preparation ultimately only goes so far. Sometimes, you just have to be able to adapt."
Kern County Fire Engineer Andrew Freeborn, spokesman for the department, encouraged residents to be prepared before an earthquake occurs and to sign up for the county’s Smart911 system and ReadyKern program in case of an earthquake.
“These are the tools that will help our dispatchers and notify you in case of an emergency through automated notification systems,” Freeborn said. “Turn to your local law and fire departments to look for advice. What can I do to prepare my family if something happens? What can I do if I am in a car when something happens?
"These are all things we can take advantage of before an emergency happens.”
And Kern County is prepared, too — its emergency preparedness plan prioritizes saving lives and minimizing property damage. First responders are trained on how to care for and treat victims of earthquakes. Recovery assistance, damage assessment and inspection and any other resources needed in a community are included in this plan, Person said.
July 5th's temblor in Ridgecrest came in at a magnitude 7.1, although it was previously reported as a 6.9, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It surpassed July 4's 6.4 earthquake that took place in what appears to be the same general area. The July 4 earthquake is now considered a foreshock.
Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in both Kern and San Bernardino counties.
But potential earthquakes along the Garlock Fault could be more catastrophic than the earthquakes felt in Kern County this summer, Ross said.
"A magnitude 8 earthquake on the Garlock fault would have longer and also more intense shaking than the Ridgecrest earthquakes," Ross said. "It would be felt over a much larger area as well."
While it is unknown when the next earthquake could occur, Person said it's never too early to be prepared.
"It is a great reminder for our residents that earthquakes are an ever-present risk, and we should all have a readiness plan for our family and homes," Person said.
Corum mirrored Person's sentiment.
"It ultimately comes down to the residents," Corum said. "We want them to be prepared. We can’t stress it enough. Have a disaster plan of their own.
"If something hits, it could be that they have to be prepared or on their own for 72 hours. They have to be able to do their part."