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Fearing a big earthquake like the one in Mexico isn't enough. Here's how to turn anxiety into action

The magnitude 3.6 earthquake that struck Westwood on Monday night was small and caused no damage. The deadly 7.1 earthquake that struck hours later in Mexico City caused buildings to collapse and resulted in a significant number of deaths.

Both are reminders that a much bigger and more damaging quake eventually will hit Southern California.

Here’s some tips on how to turn quake anxiety into positive action.


BEING PREPARED

Small preparations can make a big difference

Some of the scenarios for a major earthquake are grim.

The U.S. Geological Survey published a hypothetical scenario of what a magnitude 7.8 earthquake on the San Andreas Fault would look like. The death toll could be one of the worst for a natural disaster in U.S. history: nearly 1,800, about the same number of people killed in Hurricane Katrina. More than 900 could die from fire; more than 400 from the collapse of vulnerable steel-frame buildings; more than 250 from other building damage; and more than 150 from transportation accidents, such as car crashes because of stoplights being out or bridges being broken.

But creating earthquake kits and making other preparations can be life-saving.

For more on earthquake preparation, go here and here.

SEISMIC RETROFITTING

Making where you live and work safer

Cities across California have in recent years moved to require seismic retrofitting of so-called “soft story” apartments and brittle concrete buildings.

But experts say homeowners should get their single-family homes bolted and braced. A Times columnist recently had his home checked out and tells the story.

Here is more information.

Earthquake insurance in California has been a hard sell for many homeowners, who complain about price and high deductibles. But the insurance has gotten more attractive in recent years.

BE PREPARED

Simple steps

Drop, cover and hold. Don’t stand up during an earthquake

If an earthquake hits, you’re better off taking cover under a table, and away from windows, than standing in a doorway. The USGS calls the latter “outdated advice” that can leave people susceptible to being knocked down. Identify areas in your house to take cover, protect your neck and head and steer clear of items that could fall.

If you’re outside, stay away from telephone poles or lights that could fall. If you’re driving, pull over somewhere safe and avoid trees and overpasses.

Don’t panic

This might be easier said than done, but as with any disaster, remaining calm is crucial. Just remember, the odds of dying in an earthquake are small. As The Times reported earlier this year, it’s a 1 in 20,000 chance over the course of a lifetime.

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UPDATES:

2:30 p.m.: This article was updated with information about the Mexico City quake.

This article was originally published at 8:15 a.m.

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