Emergency responders urge people to prepare for the next 'Big One'

33 years ago today the Bay Area was rocked by the Loma Prieta earthquake. Experts warn it's not a matter of if a major quake will strike again, it's a matter of when. First responders have an important message. 

Emergency responders are urging all of us to take this time to reflect on the past, and prepare for the future.

October 17th, 1989 the A's and Giants were preparing to face off in the Battle of the Bay, when a magnitude 6.9 quake shook the Bay Area, killing 63 people, injuring thousands more, and leaving a mark on the Bay Area and the city of San Francisco.

Firefighters say they used the quake as an opportunity to learn; to prepare for the next quake. In videos of the time, you can see civilians stepping in to help firefighters battle fires throughout the Marina District. Those volunteers now trained and the relationship formalized as neighborhood emergency response teams. "No question about it, our resources will be stretched thin, and without the help of our communities we're going to see what we saw in 1989 but at a larger scale," said Lt. Jonathan Baxter from San Francisco's Fire Department.

The fire department says there have been systemic changes, everything from building codes aimed at making sure multistory buildings don't collapse to holding regular disaster drills. "This is what we've got from the 1989 earthquake, above groundwater systems, training, hose tenders, neighborhood emergency response teams, a robust marine unit," said Lt. Baxter.

The city's Department of Emergency Management says people should be prepared to be on their own for a minimum of 72 hours following a major quake. "Really what we want people to do today is take a pause, reflect on what happened 33 years ago, and really ask yourself 'Am I prepared?'" said Mary Ellen Carroll from San Francisco's Department of Emergency Management.

Emergency officials are urging people to get ready before disaster strikes. That means a gallon of water per person per day, food medicine and copies of any important documents should all be accessible and ready. 

"The more that people can help themselves the more we're going to be able to help people who are truly in need during these events," said Carroll.

First responders are urging people to go to their local fire departments' web pages to find out more about how to prepare for the next major disaster.

What emergency supplies do I need in an earthquake? 

USGS: https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/what-emergency-supplies-do-i-need-earthquake