Unshaken is turning 1. Here’s a one-year quake prep checkup

Illustration of a family with a cat and animated earthquake kit. Palm trees in the background wear sunglasses.
You prepared your life for an earthquake — terrific! Now keep at it.
(Daniel Sulzberg / For The Times)

Here’s a special Unshaken update for all our readers, whether you’ve completed the series or are just starting out:

Hello, Unshaken Angeleno. It’s been about a year since the Los Angeles Times first published Unshaken, our guide to earthquake readiness and resilience.

In that time, from roughly Death Valley to Ensenada, Mexico, we’ve experienced more than 1,400 earthquakes, according to Caltech data. But most of those we barely felt, if we felt them at all. The vast majority were under magnitude 3.


Only two were over magnitude 4.5. One was a 4.6 near the Salton Sea in early June 2021. Then a 4.6 struck off the coast of Ensenada in April 2022. Outside of Southern California, an underwater volcano erupted in the South Pacific and triggered tsunami warnings here on the West Coast and elsewhere (damage was minimal, though two deaths were reported in Peru).

When you felt those quakes or saw the tsunami alerts, did your mind dart to your earthquake kit and your family plan? To whether you remember where your gas shutoff valve is? To how you should respond if you’re near the beach and a tsunami warning is issued? Did your smartphone ping you with alerts from the MyShake app?

Here’s the thing: This is earthquake country. We can’t control where or when the ground is going to shake. And shake it will.

What we Southern Californians (and others who live in earthquake-prone parts of the world; hi, NorCal, Oregon and Mexico!) can control is how prepared and resilient we will be. That’s the goal of Unshaken — to help you prepare and to help you be resilient after a disaster.

So let’s review and refresh a bit of what we’ve covered in Unshaken.

1. Dig out your kit

It’s time to go through the kit you assembled or bought and check expiration dates on all the food. Anything close to its date, you can eat, donate or toss — and then replenish during your next trip to the grocery store.

Also, if you have drinking water stored, start rotating it. Drink or use what you can, and replenish. You want at least three gallons of water per person (a gallon per day for three days). (And don’t forget about pets.)


Do you have spare batteries? Check their expiration dates. Do all the cables and cords and chargers you packed away still connect to the devices you use most? Do the extra clothes still fit? Is there a new member of the family to account for? Check medications, extra pairs of eyeglasses and documents to make sure they’re up to date.

Lastly, did you buy fire extinguishers last year? Set up a monthly reminder on your phone to check their pressure gauge, or as directed by the manufacturer.

2. Also your commute kit

Give a once-over to the items in your commute kit — in your car or maybe a backpack you use on transit. Is everything still good?

One other thing: Did you return to an on-site workplace at some point in the last year? Things may have changed — I know that’s true at my office. So seek out the emergency exit signage and get familiar with how you would leave the building in a disaster.

3. Check inside your home

If you’re like me, you didn’t finish all of the projects you wanted to last summer. I still need to get safety film for the bedroom window and install safety latches on cabinets that can shake open. Maybe you also need to secure a new large piece of furniture or the TV. Now’s the time.

Also, take one minute and glance at your water heater. Still strapped down correctly? Not leaking? Great. Go back to ignoring it.


4. Also outside your home

OK, OK. Your water heater is outside. Take that one minute to look at it now.

Also, do you remember how to shut off the gas, water and electricity at your home?

Maybe now is the time to call a plumber to install an automatic gas shutoff valve.

And did you start the research about foundation retrofitting but later abandon that tab among the other “I’ll-get-back-to-that” tasks in your phone’s browser? (No, I’ve never done that. Why do you ask?) Make today the day you call a contractor or see whether you qualify for the state’s Earthquake Brace and Bolt program.

5. Review and refresh your family plan

Get the family together to do something fun — go over your family emergency plan. (And then have ice cream.)

Maybe it’s time to commit one more important phone number to memory. Maybe some information has changed — update it. Review the meeting place you settled on: Does it still work for you for most situations?

6. Also your finances

In these uncertain times, subtract one thing from your list of worries. Stash away a few hundred dollars in smaller bills in your earthquake kit. If electronic payments are knocked out by a big quake, you’ll be set.

Also, review your earthquake insurance policy. Is it still active? Have you added any new valuables to your collections? Document them. Has anything changed with your home? Take pictures. Are you able to reduce the deductible a bit? Call your insurer to see if you qualify for a lower premium.



The reason all of this matters, as seismologist Lucy Jones wrote in a guest essay for The Times, is because we all want Southern California to remain a vibrant place to live for many, many decades to come. That can only happen if neighbors talk to neighbors and help one another out when the need arises. That’s how our neighborhoods will rebuild. So as you enjoy your summer of cookouts, beach days and block parties, extend an invite to a neighbor. Get to know them a bit more. And maybe encourage them to sign up for Unshaken.

Thank you for reading and supporting The Times’ journalism. Please consider subscribing if you haven’t already.

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