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Tehachapi City Manager Greg Garrett

Every once in a while, Mother Nature likes to prove to us just how small we really are. The latest series of earthquakes in Ridgecrest that started on July 4 were that harsh reminder.

We of course felt and continue to feel them here in Tehachapi, ourselves no stranger to major earthquakes given our location to active faults in the area. Ridgecrest, Trona and the Searles Valley took the brunt of the hit and the resulting damage. We continue to work with Ridgecrest city officials as we exercise our mutual aid agreement we entered into a few months back.

We sent our building inspector to Ridgecrest to help manage the workload of inspection requests from residents who were concerned about the safety of their buildings. From all accounts he did an amazing job leading those efforts and dispatching inspection resources efficiently.

In government, we have the difficult position of being regulators. It’s tough to have conversations with people about laws, codes and rules they simply don’t want to follow or might not understand. However, in the recent case of the earthquake, California seismic building codes proved to be a winner, and a good thing.

Imagine the earthquake happening 30 years ago? The amount of widespread catastrophic damage that 6.4 and 7.1 magnitude quakes back-to-back would cause? For example, the 1994 Northridge earthquake, “just” a 6.7 magnitude, caused anywhere between $13 and $50 billion in damages to both public and private homes, businesses and infrastructure.

The United States and California in particular have certain safety building codes for a reason. While they can seem burdensome for many, events like the Ridgecrest earthquake prove they are effective. While Ridgecrest and surrounding communities certainly weren’t spared from damage, it was in comparison minimal to similar-size earthquakes either in the past, or in other parts of the world. How many times in the last few years have we seen earthquakes of similar magnitude to the Ridgecrest quakes completely level areas across the world with little to no building codes? It’s a necessity for safety at the same time understandably frustrating for many.

Health and safety continue to be the top responsibility of government service. As part of that is the preparedness and response to a natural disaster. The city of Tehachapi has an emergency operations center as well as an in-depth manual that serves as a playbook based on the disaster at hand. We also work closely with other entities like the Tehachapi Unified School District and Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley hospital to ensure communication and effective operations during emergency scenarios. We also meet regularly with Kern County Office of Emergency Services regarding protocols, response and recovery following these situations. We continue to evaluate and modify our procedures based on new technology and issues.

We can be prepared as a city, but we will continue to stress preparedness for our residents. When the ground moves, the water rises or the fire rages, don’t rely on stores for the things you need. Standard preparation for a critical event is 72 hours worth of food, water, medication and first aid supplies for you and your family. Don’t be left relying on retail when the disaster strikes.

As part of that preparation, we’ve turned the focus of our National Night out on Aug. 6 at Central Park to be on emergency preparedness. The Tehachapi Police Department will be joined by Kern County Fire and other agencies to discuss and display critical items for you to have on hand in case of an emergency. The event is free to the public and starts at 4:30 p.m.

I look forward to your participation as we prepare together for a moment that we hope never comes. As always if you have any questions or concerns please feel free to reach out to me at ggarrett@tehachapicityhall.com or 822-2200.

Greg Garrett is Tehachapi's city manager.