A Southern California Girl's Guide to Preparing for an Earthquake

To all of my lovely ladies in So Cal:

These past days of watching hurricanes hit our southern friends, an earthquake hit Mexico and wildfires rage across the country have really got me thinking... what if a major earthquake, "the big one" as they call it, hits Southern California? What will I do? Am I ready?

But really... we'll only have a few seconds to decide what to do - there aren't days of "you better evacuate now" warnings for earthquakes. Do you know what you'll do?

If you've grown up in Southern California, you're probably used to the duck & cover earthquake drills we did at school where we hid under our desks and waited until our teachers told us the shaking had stopped. We'd then grab our bag of earthquake food that our parents put together for us and head out to our meeting spot. And that's where the story ended.

But growing up with a dad who is a firefighter, and now that I'm married to a firefighter, I definitely know that's not where the story ends and there ARE some ways we can prepare for the quake itself and the days following.

So now, whether you're a girl who works in an office or from home (like me!), and whether you're living on your own, with roommates, or with your own family, here are a few ways we Southern California girls can get prepared:

  1. Think through "if an earthquake happens now" scenarios and where you'd be and what you'd do in those seconds:
    1. If you're inside, get NEXT TO NOT UNDER a heavy piece of furniture. I know, I know, that's not what we learned growing up. But those spaces next to beds, desks, coffee tables, etc., create void spaces that will protect you from big things that fall. So while you'll still get smaller scrapes from being exposed, you won't get smashed like a pancake if the roof falls on top of the desk. The desk will break the fall, and that void space next to you will save your life.
    2. If you're outside, watch out for things that could fall from buildings next to you (bricks, tiles, etc), power lines or trees that could fall.
    3. If you're driving, don't just slam on your breaks, try to slowly move to the right hand side.
    4. If you're sleeping, roll out of your bed, crouch down next to your bed and put your pillow over your head for extra protection. Keep a flashlight, a pair of shoes, glasses (if you wear them), and a water bottle under your bed so you can grab them easily.
    5. If you're somewhere else in your house, get next to your couch, coffee table or a big piece of furniture and stay away from windows and cabinets.
    6. When the shaking has stopped, put on shoes if you're barefoot (and if you can get to some) so you don't step on shattered glass or items, try to make your way to other people in the house to make sure they're ok, grab your earthquake bag (see below) and then exit the building.
  2. Keep 1 gallon of water (per person/per day) in your house/apartments if you want to be really prepared, or even just a few cases of water will be more than most people have. Buy cases of water bottles and store them inside to prevent the bottles from overheating and releasing toxins into the water. Prep for at least 2 weeks without water.
  3. Put together your own "earthquake bag"
    1. A pair of running shoes + 4 pairs of socks
    2. Any toiletries you can't live without for 2-4 weeks (don't forget pads or tampons)
    3. If you're like me and totally blind, make sure you have extra contacts + contact holder + solution + glasses if you have an old pair you can keep in here
    4. Medications you need for 1 month
    5. 2 sets of clothes + extra underwear (or more clothes if they'll fit in your bag)
    6. First aid kit
    7. Flashlight
    8. Roll of toilet paper
    9. Put all of your items in a backpack or duffel bag so it's easy to carry
    10. If you want to get extra fancy, make two bags - one for under your bed and one for in your car (for if you're away from home)
  4. Have extra dry food in your pantry that you could live on for 2 weeks. This can be canned proteins, fruits, and veggies, (just know what drawer your can opener is in), peanut butter, granola bars, etc. Also! Don't forget food for your pets and babies!!
  5. Learn how to turn off your gas, electricity and water.
    1. If you smell gas, turn off the gas before there's a fire
    2. If you have a water leak, shut off the water at the source (if it's just one toilet, shut it off there)
  6. Pick your "meeting spot" with your family & identify an out-of-state family member/friend to call. Try to plan with either your family if they live close by, or with a group of friends, and choose one spot where everyone will meet after the earthquake. Also identify one friend or family member who lives outside the state that you can call and let know that you're ok. Most likely, county and possibly state phone lines could be down/full, but out-of-area lines will be your next best shot.
  7. Always keep half a tank of gas in your car. As we've seen with the hurricanes, gas can be one of the first resources to go, and you'll want to make sure you have enough gas in your tank to get to your meeting spot.
  8. Have cash in your purse and earthquake bag. If electricity goes out, ATMs won't work and credit cards, well...

I'm sure there are many more things you can do to prepare, but these are the ones I'd really like you to start with :) Share this list with your husband, your friends, and make sure they're prepared too. The big one may or may not come in our lifetime, but I'd rather us all be prepared and ready, and not rely solely on rescue personnel or other people to help. We've got this!


P.S. This list does apply to guys, too. I really just wanted you ladies to know that YOU can take these steps to be prepared!

P.P.S. I'm not claiming to be an "earthquake preparedness" expert. This list was simply put together by me, my dad and my husband. The American Red Cross has a much more complete list if you'd like to prepare even further.

If you implement any of these tips or have a few of your own, I'd love to hear in the comments below!