Bracing For The Big One

Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 10:07am

Earthquakes and other disasters pose extra risk for the disabled.

Nine years ago Deserie Ortiz suffered a spinal cord injury in a car crash.

Now, she works with disabled youth and admits she needs to better prepare herself for the Big One, the massive earthquake experts predict will strike southern California sooner rather than later.

"I know you are supposed to drop, cover and hold on and things like that but if I drop on the floor, I'm not going to be able to get back up on my wheelchair," Ortiz said.

"I just have to do it now. Especially since I am an advocate of my own life and I'm an advocate for others, I need to be an example," she said.

For the wheel-chair bound, safety officials advise dropping, covering and holding on the best way they can - modified instructions with the same urgency.

"They should lock the wheelchair in place so that it does not move," said Jeff Reeb, access and functional needs coordinator for LA County Office of Emergency Management.

If residents are in bed when an earthquake hits, experts advise to use the linens, bedding and padding to their advantage.

"I didn't know what I was going to do but I did stay on my bed and that I was not going to move until I felt secure to get on to my wheelchair," Ortiz said.

Reeb said when the ground starts shaking, people in bed should pull a pillow or blankets over their head, adding that an emergency kit full of essential items to last at least a week is also a must, especially for people on medication.

"The kit has to carry them through a period where their normal supplies would not be available," Reeb said.

Food and water should be set aside for caregivers and service animals, as well.

Safety officials suggest consider registered at, a volunteer registry for people who identity that they may need extra assistance during disasters or evacuations.

Ortiz, who is largely independent, admits she knows something she'll need a hand.

"I do know that I am a person with a disability and that I am going to need help at times," she said.

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