Los Angeles, CA

Haiti’s earthquake has Los Angeles wondering when to expect The Big One

Deanna Barnert

Are you prepped for our next Northridge-sized quake?

Los Angeles is poised for an earthquake measuring magnitude 6.7 or larger in the next 30 years./ canva

(Los Angeles) As Haiti continues to struggle in the wake of a devastating earthquake and Tropical Storm Grace, Angelenos can’t help but empathize. Los Angeles is, after all, no stranger to rumblers and their disastrous effects. Here are some facts on how worried you should be about The Big One, how to prepare for our next quake and what to do when it hits. Plus, is California really destined to get shaken into the ocean?

Thanks to the 800-mile San Andreas Fault cutting through California and a few faults off the coast, earthquakes are a fact of life in this state. While all eyes were on Haiti in the wake of the country's August 14 7.2 magnitude earthquake, California saw small quakes in Yucca Valley (3.0) and near Angwin (2.5) on August 16, alone.

The good news here is that the mega-quakes imagined in movies like “Escape From L.A.” are NOT a reflection of our reality. With California’s biggest measured quake a 7.9 in 1906, the San Andreas isn’t long or deep enough to cause a quake larger than 8.3.

The bad news? Locals who plan on sticking around Southern California should indeed be prepared for a 6.7 magnitude quake or larger. “The chance of an earthquake in the L.A. area the size of the Northridge quake or larger is about 60 percent in the next 30 years,” explains Dr. Morgan Page, a research geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey. “The threat is really low from week to week, but if you're going to be in L.A. over the next few decades, it's very likely you'll experience something like that.”

And while mythical mega quakes would be regional disasters, a smaller quake centered near you could be just as devastating to your neighborhood. “A Northridge-sized event is going to have bad enough ground motions that, locally, it's going to be a disaster,” Dr. Page says. "That's what we worry about."

On the upside, no matter how big the quake, L.A. is not going to fall into the ocean. “That myth is kind of crazy because the San Andreas fault moves side by side,” Dr. Page explains with a chuckle. “So Los Angeles will slowly move up the coast, and we'll end up next to Oakland… in a really long time. It’s not something we need to worry about. The thing moves at like three centimeters a year!”

Earthquake warning systems

Another myth dispelled by Dr. Page: Scientists have not found any proof that dogs, humans, or weather can predict earthquakes. That said, if you are at the top of a skyscraper, you might just feel a tiny P wave moments before being hit by the big S wave we associate with an earthquake.

“You can have 2 seconds or tens of seconds from the P wave to the S wave, depending on how far you are from the earthquake,” explains Dr. Page, and that’s how warning systems like the MyShake app, Android Earthquake Alerts, and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) from the government work. “We have a network all over California of these little instruments that can detect the very first motions of an earthquake – and that alert comes within the speed of light through your cell phone. The actual waves are going way slower, traveling at the speed of sound in the solid earth.”

This system isn’t foolproof, but when it works correctly, an alert could give you a few seconds to prepare for a rumbler.

Don’t stand in your doorway!

When you feel an earthquake, Drop, Cover, and Hold On/ USGS

If you receive a warning or feel the ground start shaking, your instructions are to Drop, Cover, and Hold On. In other words, get underneath a strong piece of furniture, protect your head and hold on tight – and don’t stand in a doorway, as an older Angeleno might incorrectly suggest!

“That myth was based on an earthquake a long time ago, back in the days of adobe houses,” Page shares. “There was a widely published photograph of this adobe house that collapsed, and the only thing left was the wooden doorframe. But we don’t live in adobe! If you live in a wooden house, the doorway is also wood. It's not any better.”

Being outside is also definitely not any better. In fact, in L.A., it’s likely to be more dangerous. “In the U.S, we’re not really killed by our buildings collapsing,” Dr. Page says. “If you were in Haiti, yeah, get the heck out! But here, a lot of the stuff that falls is decorative things on the sides of the buildings – like the edifices or ornamental pieces that can be very heavy.”

Prepping: How far should you go to be prepared?

Protect your home by securing top-heavy furniture and TVs/ Earthquake Country Alliance

The first and most important step in preparing your home for an earthquake is not in buying emergency supplies, but rather securing anything heavy so it does fall on you when your walls start shaking.

“That happened in the [2014] Napa County earthquake,” Dr. Page says. “There was a woman sleeping on her couch and she was the only death, because the TV fell on her head. And then in Northridge, a bunch of people were killed by bookshelves. Those top-heavy pieces of furniture and big TVs that can fall over are much more likely to kill you than your house collapsing in Southern California because we have pretty good building codes.”

Most of L.A. has been built or retrofitted for a quake, but there are buildings that still need attention. “The main things to watch out for are soft stories and crippling,” Dr. Page warns. “Soft stories are buildings – often apartments – where the bottom level is a parking garage. There are more way more voids and less support, so that bottom floor can collapse. L.A. passed an ordinance that's going to require everyone in the next few decades to fix up the soft story issue.

“And old houses sometimes have cripple walls, which are these foot-high foundations with a void underneath,” she adds. “They can sheer [and fold into themselves], but you can fix those by just putting up plywood.”

The seven steps to earthquake safety/ Earthquake Country Alliance

The Earthquake Country Alliance has created a hub of information on how to prepare, survive and recover from an earthquake. Naturally, you can also find lots of information and supplies via prepper sites. As you dive into making your home and workspaces safe, Dr. Page suggests starting with small, attainable steps.

“For a while there, I wasn't prepared, and then I just tried to do one thing every week, so it wasn’t overwhelming,” says Page, who has 50-gallon drums of water in her garage, along with a wind-up radio, flashlights, fire extinguisher, food, and other emergency supplies.

Of course, space is an issue for many Angelenos looking to stock up. One 55-gallon barrel will supply 2 people with 2 gallons of water per day for just over 2 weeks. Then there’s the canned, dried, and boxed foods or MREs (The Meal, Ready-to-Eat). Ultimately, we can only do what we can do – but the more nonperishable food, water, and supplies you have access to during an emergency, the better!

This is original content from NewsBreak’s Creator Program. Join today to publish and share your own content.

Comments / 0

Published by

Deanna Barnert is a Los Angeles native and entertainment journalist with thousands of news stories, features and profiles published internationally. A member of the Television Critics Association, she’s written for "Emmy" magazine, MSN.com and SheKnows.com, served as News Editor for "Soaps In Depth," and interviewed some of your favorite stars and creators. A true Angeleno, Deanna knows L.A. is the best place to live... and the worst! She made her hometown more accessible to newcomers via her contribution to "The Complete Resident’s Guide to Los Angeles" and its pocket mini, "The Essential Tourist Guide" -- and now she's doing it for NewsBreak! Deanna is an avid traveler who lived in Madrid, Spain, for two years and did some time in NYC, but she always comes home. Check out what Deanna’s doing now by following @TVDeeva on social media.

Los Angeles, CA

More from Deanna Barnert

Comments / 0