Earthquake Survival

California is Earthquake Country

On average a damaging earthquake strikes somewhere in California every two years. Since 1987, however, Southern California alone has been hit by at least nine damaging quakes. 

Seismologists believe that a major earthquake - magnitude 7 or greater - is likely to occur somewhere in Southern California within the next 30 years.

Because the San Andreas Fault is the longest fault in the region, it produces the largest earthquakes. Scientists estimate that large earthquakes on the San Andreas occur about every 130 years. The largest earthquake on the southern portion of the San Andreas in recorded history occurred in 1857. The fault ruptured all the way from Parkfield in southern Monterey County to Cajon Creek in San Bernardino County. Scientists estimate its magnitude at 7.8.

Recent events have shown that earthquakes on other faults can have considerable impacts. The Northridge earthquake in 1994 caused 57 deaths, more than 90,000 injuries and $40-42 billion in property losses. Scientists estimate that more than 200 faults in the area are capable of causing an earthquake of magnitude 6 or greater. Most everyone in Southern California lives within 30 miles of one of these faults. 

No one knows when or where such a quake will occur, but everyone can reduce their risk of death, injury and property loss in an earthquake by using the recommendations outlined here wherever you live, work or play.

Before the Earthquake

Update or assemble your emergency supply kit. 
Include the following supplies:

  • Nonperishable food and drinking water (one gallon per person per day)
  • Foods for people with special needs (infants, seniors)
  • Additional food, water for pets
  • First aid kit and special medications
  • Flashlights
  • Battery operated radios
  • Extra batteries 
  • Sturdy shoes, extra clothing, blankets
  • Sturdy work gloves
  • Emergency cash
  • Adjustable wrench and other tools
  • Whistle
  • Manual can opener

Choose an out of state contact.

Identify the safe spots in each room:

  • Sturdy desks and tables
  • Interior walls

Identify hazards in each room:

  • Windows
  • Mirrors
  • Hanging objects
  • Fireplaces
  • Tall unsecured furniture

Reduce Hazards:

  • Check chimney, roof and foundation.
  • Bolt the house to the foundation.
  • Strengthen cripple walls.
  • Brace water heater and other appliances.
  • Secure hazards identified in hazard hunt.
  • Place heavy and breakable objects on lower shelves.

Hold practice drills. 

Learn first aid and C.P.R. 

Learn how and when to turn off utilities.

During the Earthquake

If you're indoors, stay INSIDE. Duck, cover and hold. Avoid windows and outside walls. Do not use elevators. 

If you're outdoors, find an open area. Avoid trees, buildings, walls and power lines. 

If you're driving, pull to the side of the road and stop. Avoid overpasses, signs and other hazards. 

Stay in your car until the shaking stops. 

After the Earthquake

Check yourself and those around you for injuries

Prepare for aftershocks.

Check for utility problems: 

  • Gas leaks
  • Water leaks
  • Broken wiring and sewage lines

Turn off utilities if there is damage. 

Check your supplies. 

Use the phone only to advise your out-of-state contact of your condition and to report immediate, life-threatening emergencies. 

Check your house for damage. 

Listen to the radio for information and instructions. 

Avoid unnecessary driving. 

Leave a written message indicating where you are headed and your physical condition if you evacuate your home, work place or car. 

Information extracted and adapted from Ready to Ride It Out? California Governors Office of Emergency Services.