Not All of Anza, California Is Shook Up, Though Scientists Predict a Quake
Specifically, the scientists reported on the Anza Seismic Gap, a 13-mile section of the San Andreas Fault that runs by the town. Successive quakes on either side have put the rock formations under colossal pressures, making a quake possible at any time. With no policemen, one doctor and one professional fireman in Anza, the perils in such a disaster would be compounded. Says fireman Steve Drake grimly: "People are going to have to fend for themselves."
Like many other California communities, Anza is no stranger to earth tremors, experiencing minor quakes every year. Moreover, it suffered floods in 1980 and severe forest fires in 1981. The earthquake announcement alarmed younger and newer residents, but the old-timers, generally self-sufficient individualists, took the news fatalistically. "These people have no idea what might happen in an earthquake," worries schoolteacher Nancy McCoy, who designed a community survival program. "We've told them, 'Your fridge might fall over, your washer might fly across the room. There may be fires from ruptured propane tanks.' No one realizes how bad an eight-point quake might be." An earthquake measuring eight points on the Richter scale brings almost complete devastation.
McCoy published what she calls a "family plan" in a local newsletter, with instructions on what foods to lay away (flour, juice, vegetables and "lots and lots of water") and what emergency measures to take (keep a flashlight and first-aid kit). Most Anzans live in mobile homes and light their stoves from tanks of propane gas, which in a quake would raise the hazard of multiple fires and the problems of Captain Drake and his 16 volunteer firemen. "If we had three fires going in this valley at the same time, we'd be in big trouble," says McCoy. "But that's what a quake would do—sever propane lines. It's a big problem."
Another concern is that Highway 371, which runs through the center of the valley, might be rendered impassable in a quake, cutting off outside help. Then much of the rescue work would be handled by HELP (for Horseback Emergency Life Patrol), a troop of 15 expert riders organized and led by Arabian horse breeder Dottie Sanborn. "We will have a number of riders linked to a radio hot line. These people can go around and check on the situation with their neighbors," she explains. "If anyone needs assistance they can report back quickly."
At first Sanborn's project drew only snickers, but lately people have been taking her more seriously. "People are beginning to realize that they could be hurt or trapped or without help for two or three weeks," she says. "The same things that make us tough enough to live here also make us independent. People in Anza don't like to admit they might need help."