What I Learned About Earthquake Preparedness

The past ten years feel like they have brought on a lot of natural disasters such as hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and floods. There are regions that are luckier than others, however, we are all prone to some sort of natural disaster, even if its lightning hitting a tree that could fall on our house.

In 1994, I lived in California, in the Los Angeles area, and experienced the Northridge earthquake that hit 6.9 on the Richter scale. I lived in North Hollywood, closer to Studio City and about only ten -15 minutes or so from Northridge. The earthquake happened at 4:30am, so I was asleep at the time, but of course, was awakened immediately. Needless to say I was scared and confused. I had never felt a real earthquake, there had been very small ones while I lived there that I did not feel, and because I’d been asleep, I was not sure what was happening. The best way I can describe it was that it sounded like what I thought the sound of being bombed was like. The building was shuttering and shaking and the sound was deafening with “bap bap bap” that seemed like things were actually hitting my apartment building. The amount of time the earthquake lasted has been disputed, anywhere between 10 -40 seconds, however, it felt like an hour. I can not even imagine what the people in Japan 2011 went through, with an earthquake lasting for three minutes, it must have been devastating to say the least. And then to have a tsunami hit, that is pure Armageddon.

I did, however, learn a lot about earthquake preparedness while I lived in Los Angeles after that quake. Things I would not have thought of on my own.

1) Have supplies
After an earthquake, the power could be out, stores closed and water and food scarce.

A. Have a case of water stashed
B. Keep canned food products/vacuum packed (baby food) etc. Have few days of nonperishable MRE meals, my favorite brand is XMRE.
C. Flashlight with batteries and extra batteries
D. Radio with batteries and extra batteries
E. If you can get into a parked car (that is not under something that can fall) that is a good place to sit and wait and also listen to the radio for reports

2) Exit the premises if you are able after the quake

A. There can be gas leaks – you need to get out
B. Do not try to turn anything on until the house or building is deemed safe

3) When the earthquake occurs, seek stable, secure shelter

A. Go under a table, a desk, inside of a doorway – underneath structures that can protect you from being hit by falling debris
B. If outside, stay away from trees and anything that can fall – it sounds silly, but it is better to be in an open space if you can get to it
C. If you are in the car, be careful, try to stop or slow down, but if you are near an underpass, try to either avoid it by stopping before it or going through it to the other side
D. If in a bathroom, get into a tub or the doorway

4) Make Phone Calls

A. If you are able to use your phone, call a loved one or friend to let them know you are okay
B. Make sure your cell phone is always charged

5) Check on others and pets

A. If you are ok, make sure to check on others in the dwelling. If it is not safe, call for help immediately.
B. Pets – I could not find my cat for about 15 minutes after that earthquake, but he had hidden between my bed mattress and the wall of the apartment and was scared out of his wits.

a. I took the cat out of the building for safety
b. I checked him to make sure he was not injured

6) Be prepared for aftershocks

I was not. We kept having these other earthquakes for weeks on end, and I learned those were aftershocks and they can be scary, large in scale and very unpredictable like earthquakes themselves. Be prepared for this.

I am sure there are more regulatory safety rules for earthquake preparedness, however, these are what I was told by natives of Los Angeles, and what I learned from my personal experience.