As dust drifted down over the earthquake-ravaged city of Coalinga, Calif. two months ago, David Hedman, 26, shook his head and then reached for the ringing phones. Based 165 miles away in Palo Alto, Hedman's company, Earthquake Safety, fields as many as 200 calls a day from frightened homeowners, corporation heads and government officials asking how to cope with life on the fault lines. Hedman started in 1981 with an earthquake-information hotline at Stanford University, where he was majoring in economics. Seven months later the service moved off campus and became a private company with the San Diego native as president. Today the 14-member staff has provided earthquake safety information to 45 American cities as well as the countries of Israel, Japan and Portugal. Corporations like American Airlines and Shell Oil have had their plants critiqued, and for $75 plus a mileage charge for one of Hedman's employees, a homeowner can have his property evaluated for seismic risk. This service includes a geological analysis, inspection of the foundation and gaslines, and advice on the safest place to sit out a quake. The son of a high school guidance counselor, Hedman (above, in a room of his old apartment rigged to look like an earthquake had struck) has experienced six minor quakes. "We don't want to scare people," says Hedman, "but our whole purpose is to say, 'Look, you don't know when the Big One is coming, so you had better prepare now.' "
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