Nightly News | March 11, 2011
>>> as we said earlier, japan is constantly referred to as perhaps the most prepared nation on earth for an earthquake. they drill constantly, like a lot of places in known earthquake zones, like california , where they have experience in this, of course, and where they are sending their top-flight team across the pacific to japan . george lewis is at the headquarters of the search and rescue team there in l.a. county . george, good evening.
>> reporter: good evening, brian. behind me you see some of the equipment that the los angeles county fire department search and rescue team will be taking to japan . many of the team members just got back from the new zealand quake. they also served at the haiti quake, and these are the same people who will have to rescue californians in future quakes here. one out of five californians practice for the big one every year, a massive drill called the great shakeout, involving school kids, hospitals, first responders. so how well prepared is california ?
>> obviously we've got a long way to go. there are four out of five people approximately that aren't participating as far as we know.
>> reporter: even as the death toll mounts in japan , u.s. experts say the japanese earthquake early warning networks alerted people to take cover, saving lives, a capability we lack.
>> we're years away from having that in california or in the u.s.
>> reporter: the thing that most worries scientists is the threat of a huge earthquake along the southern end of the san andreas fault . california faces a 94% probability of a magnitude 7 or greater quake in the next 30 years. in one scenario, a quake measuring magnitude 7.8 would leave 1800 people dead, would sever vital utility and transportation lifelines, and cause billions of dollars in damage. and as the los angeles county fire search and rescue team learned recently in new zealand, an earthquake doesn't have to be the big one to be deadly. the christchurch quake, magnitude 6.3, was close to the surface. the ground shaking violent.
>> buildings resemble los angeles , california . there are some buildings right next to buildings that are down that have survived the earthquake.
>> reporter: a warning for californians . even with building codes that focus on seismic safety, many structures are still no match for violent quakes. among the 72 members of the team, experts in water rescue, because of all the tsunami flooding. brian.