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Santa Barbara County officials said two strong earthquakes that rattled large parts of California over the last several days are a reminder of the need to be prepared for the next quake.

The magnitude 6.4 and 7.1 quakes, which were centered near the city of Ridgecrest in Kern County, struck on Thursday and Friday. The earthquake Friday was the largest in the Southern California area in more than 20 years. 

Tremors from the quakes were felt by millions of Californians from Sacramento through Southern California, including the Central Coast.

Physical damage from the quakes largely remained limited to the the area near their center. While buildings were damaged and gas lines were ruptured in the Ridgecrest area, there were no fatalities or major injuries.

Daniel Bertucelli, public information officer for Santa Barbara County Fire Department, said there was no reported property damage in the county from either Thursday or Friday’s temblors.

A Latin phrase atop the arched public entry to the new Northern Branch Jail sums up a philosophy that’s been incorporated not only into the way inmates will be treated but also into the very design of the facility. “I am the architect of my own future,” translated Thomas Jenkins, a retired San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office commander, as he led a tour of the facility Wednesday morning.

Although earthquakes can strike anywhere, California is considered to be at especially high risk due to the San Andreas Fault, which runs along the length of the state and delineates the tectonic boundary between the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate. 

Northern Santa Barbara County is located near several faults that could potentially result in damaging quakes, including the San Luis Fault range and the Hosgri Fault, which is a component of the San Andreas Fault system.

Seismologists have said California is overdue for a major earthquake along the fault line. A U.S. Geological Survey study has predicted there is a 70% chance of a magnitude 7 or greater earthquake occurring along the San Andreas fault by 2030.

"We've been fortunate on the Central Coast not to have had a big earthquake here since San Simeon in 2003, but it will happen again," said Tony Clayburg, a battalion chief with the Santa Maria Fire Department.

To prepare for an earthquake, Bertucelli said residents should fasten shelves to walls, secure heavy items on lower shelves and have provisions of items like bottled water and nonperishable food for families to be able to survive for at least three days.

Bertucelli suggested homeowners know how to turn off their utilities, hold earthquake drills and have a plan for reuniting their family.

If an earthquake occurs, residents should drop to the ground, cover their heads and neck and hold on to something sturdy, Bertucelli said. Those in a vehicle should pull over but avoid stopping near or under trees, buildings overpasses or overhead utility wires.

Those who are outdoors when a quake hits, should stay outdoors and move away from nearby buildings or structures, Bertucelli said. 

“Most injuries during earthquakes occur when people are hit by falling objects when entering or exiting buildings,” he said.

Clayburg said preparing for the aftermath of a big quake is vitally important. 

"It takes a little while for FEMA or other government agencies to get going," he said. "You want to make sure you have the ability to be self-sufficient for two to three days. Water, canned food, medications, a little bit of money."

Residents should consider their animals as well. 

"Think of your pets, what they might need," Clayburg said. "If you make sure all of your needs are taken care of for at least a couple days, you’ll be a little ahead of the game."

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Razi Syed covers Santa Maria City Government for Lee Central Coast Newspapers.  Follow him on Twitter @razisyed

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City Government

Razi Syed covers city government for the Santa Maria Times. He is a graduate of Fresno State University and New York University.