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Earthquake Safety and Preparedness in Los Angeles

Emergency Safety Tips and List in the Event of an Earthquake in LA


San Andreas Fault Big One Earthquake Preparedness Safety in Los Angeles
Photo: David McNew/Staff/Getty Images

Whether it’s the so-called 'Big One' along the San Andreas fault or a smaller quake measuring 4 or 5 on the Richter Scale, it pays to be prepared. There will inevitably be earthquakes in Los Angeles as we live in ‘earthquake country’ amongst fault lines and shifting plates. These safety measures and tips will help you prepare for and survive earthquakes in LA.

Communications Networks and Hubs During an Earthquake in LA

It is very important that you set up a communications plan with your loved ones, friends and neighbors. Decide in advance who should stay put, and who should try and get in touch and gather others. Make sure you have an up-to-date phone number list which also includes the numbers of doctors and emergency services.

Know Your Home Before an Earthquake Hits

Make sure you know where the gas and water mains and electrical boxes are in your home so you can turn them off in the event of an emergency. Also, maybe there are 'safe zones' for hunkering down during aftershocks--areas that are relatively sparse and tucked away. Identify them.

Earthquake 101: Duck and Cover

It may sound retro but the old adage still applies. Protect your head with your arms and if possible crawl under a desk during an earthquake. Many people (myself included) still run for the doorway. Apparently this method became popular in the early days of the 20th century when most of the houses were made of adobe and the frames of doorways were the only wood structures. These days, that is no longer the case. However, if your doorway is away from any hanging structures or glass, I still believe it is the safest bet.

On the Road During an Earthquake in LA

Los Angeles is such a driving city that, chances are, you could be on the road during an earthquake. So, you should treat your automobile like your home in regards to earthquake preparation. Keep some supplies--like an earthquake and/or First Aid kit and water--in your car as well as your house.

Must-Have Survival Items For an Earthquake in Los Angeles

  1. Plenty of canned goods

    Beans are an especially good emergency food option as they are rich in protein. Also stock up on tomatoes, peas, corn and chicken soup for nutrients. Make sure to check the expiration dates on your food and ‘cycle’ it throughout the year, eating the expiring foods and replacing them with new canned goods.

  2. Non-electric can opener

  3. Bottled water

    This is key as water supplies could be toxic or there could be a water main break. You need water to survive. Similarly, check the expiration dates on the bottles and ‘cycle’ your water throughout the year.

  4. Portable radio (or scanner) with extra batteries

    You will need to obtain up-to-the-minute news after a quake and if the phone lines are down, that will mean your DSL and Wi-Fi could be down (as well as your cable dish).

  5. Flashlight with extra batteries

    Maglites are my personal favorites as they’re super-durable and dependable. I usually keep a Maglite by my bed and another less substantial flashlight in the kitchen drawer.

  6. Fire extinguisher

    You should probably have this in your kitchen anyway. It’s not a bad idea to keep one in your car as well.

  7. First Aid book and kits

    Most hardware stores carry Fist Aid/earthquake kits. Make sure to get one for the house (or two if you have a family) and one for each car.

  8. Adjustable wrench

    You may need to turn off your gas or water after an earthquake hits.

  9. Matches (and fire wood)

    Matches are a must. And, if it’s winter, remember your heating and electricity could be off due to the quake. Determine whether there is a gas leak before lighting a match or fire.

  10. Smoke detector

    You should have this already installed in every room in your house. This is especially important in earthquake precautions as a quake could send power lines down and cause a fire, especially in hillside areas with lots of trees.

  11. Portable butane or charcoal stove

    Before using these determine if there is a gas leak. Also, only use charcoal outside.

  12. Buckets and bottles of bleach

    Under the unfortunate circumstances of a leak or other quake-related plumbing problems, it may be days or even weeks before you can flush a toilet. Buckets, water and bleach can together serve as makeshift temporary toilets.

  13. Boots or heavy duty shoes

    It’s good to have these types of footwear near your bed or easily accessible. Often glass is the detritus of an earthquake. So, walking around barefoot or in sandals could be dangerous.

Advanced Los Angeles Earthquake Safety Prep

Depending on how in-depth you want to go in your prep, there are also longer term options that you can put in place to maximize your comfort after an major earthquake.

  • Traditional power generator

    These can of course be pricey for the amount of power you may need to generate for your home but they are an effective backup system to ‘the system’ (the DWP) when there’s a power outage in your home after an earthquake.

  • Solar power generator

    This is the same concept as above except that this generator connects to solar panels on your roof, generating extra (probably not maximal) power for your home.

  • Septic tank

    If you want to have control over your plumbing in the event of earthquake related crisis, the best way to start is by getting your own septic tank--a small scale sewage system, independent of city-controlled pipes.

  • Hybrid car power hookup

    A while back, some articles ran on the Internet discussing a step-by-step process for turning a Toyota Prius into a backup generator. This is a major job but probably not a bad idea when it comes to emergency applications of everyday items. You will need a two-foot-long heavy gauge cable, a heavy duty 75 amp plug-style connector, and a circuit box (with mounting box and a 230 volt plug). See full instructions here.

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