Feeling earthquake anxiety? Here’s what you can do to be prepared

A house in Fillmore suffered extensive damage in the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
(Joe Pugliese / Los Angeles Times)

The threat of a major earthquake looms over California once again. A series of small quakes under the Salton Sea has increased the chances of seismic activity near the San Andreas fault over the next few days. You probably don’t need to get your post-apocalyptic underground bunker ready just yet, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. Whether you need a refresher, or just never got the memo that your doorway isn’t the best place to be during an earthquake, read on for some tips.

Have a survival kit ready at home and in your car

You can buy survival kits from Amazon or the American Red Cross. But if you’d like to go the do-it-yourself route, here are some basic items to include:


  • First-aid kit
  • Blanket
  • Bottled water (don’t forget about your pets)
  • Canned food (and a can opener if needed)
  • A whistle to use if you need to be rescued
  • Walking shoes and socks
  • A written list of emergency contacts
  • Cash
  • Transistor radio and flashlight
  • Toilet paper and feminine hygiene items
  • Extra set of house and car keys
  • Phone charger

Know how you’ll reach family and friends

Get technological: Facebook launched its Safety Check feature after an earthquake hit Nepal in 2015. It’s been used time and time again during disasters as a way for people to let others know they’re safe. If a major earthquake hit California, Facebook would probably activate it again.

Speaking of Facebook, consider downloading messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp to your phone. If an earthquake hits, you’d probably have the same chance of reaching people via SMS text. But the more options, the better.

Pick an out-of-state contact: Designate an outside point person to call and act as liaison in the event that you or your emergency contacts can’t access cellphones, or in-state phone lines are jammed.

Decide in advance which items you’d want to grab and take

In a 2014 interview with The Times, “Organize for Disaster” author Judith Kolberg suggested people know in advance which items they’d grab if they had to leave their house with little warning.


“I have people write down 10 things they’re going to grab if they have a day’s warning, then narrow it down to five … then narrow it to three. Really know ahead of time what you need to have,” she said.

Your list could include anything from sentimental items such as photos or jewelry, to necessities like medication and EpiPens.

Prep your house

Do you know where your utility shut-off valves are located? If your gas, electric or water needs to be turned off, know where those are located in your house.

Is your furniture secure? Fix any faulty cabinets, shaky bookshelves or hanging picture frames to prevent further damage.

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 U.S. Survey of Geological Studies 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.

Twitter: @cshalby


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