Advice about Earthquake Safety
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Advice about Earthquake Safety
Preparing for an Earthquake
The recent Napa earthquake has me looking around my home to see if there are ways that
we can increase safety: securing furniture, wall-hung artwork, etc.
Are there any non-annoying ways to secure kitchen cabinets? The goal is to keep them
from flying open in the event of a big shake.
We own our kitchen, and have fairly high-quality wooden cabinetry. In our previous
home, we installed plastic latches that I found immensely off-putting: in order to get
a dish, you need to have both hands free to work the latch, which took about 2-3
seconds to do. I found this to add up to a cumulative annoyance, and it was compounded
whenever friends visited (''help yourself to a glass of water... oh yeah, here's how
to open the danged cabinets'').
I'm hoping there is some usability-forward mechanism that a) isn't low-quality; b) is
not an eyesore and preferably does not negatively impact the outside of our cabinetry;
c) isn't a major hassle to use every time you need to get something.
My dream is that someone, in this earthquake prone and functional-design mecca, has a
solution that works. It does not have to be cheap, or something that I can install
myself (although those are bonus points). I simply don't want to hate my kitchen
except for when an earthquake is in progress.
Many many thanks in advance.
The Shaken Chef
Check out http://seismolatch.com/. We installed them in our kitchen. We haven't had a
chance to test them in a real quake yet, but at least I can guarantee that they are not
the ''push to open'' type of latches work for this. but personally, as a carpenter,
homeowner and foodie, i find them annoying to install... though some people love them
on shaky ground
We have these on all of our upper cabinet doors, and find they work well (installed
eight years ago and still working fine)
They don't take two hands - you just push the door forward (toward''closed'' to
''unlatch'', then the door pretty much opens itself. We tell guests just ''push before
In case it matters, our doors cover the frames. If your doors are inset into the
frames, you probably have to add a little block on the shelf to raise the ''socket''
part of the latch high enough to ''catch'' the ball part.
fellow earthquake-country resident
All our kitchen cabinets are protected by very simple, low tech devices sold under the
name Seismolatch. They are mounted at the tops of the cabinet frames and are designed
to drop a hook into a catch mounted on the back of the door. It takes a pretty hard
shake to cause them to drop into place. Banging or slamming doors doesn't do it. In
fact, the Napa quake wasn't strong enough to cause any of them to deploy, so I have no
idea how well they will work when the big one hits. They're cheap and unobtrusive, and
can be easily reset if you happen to knock one with a glass or dish. (Disclaimer: I
don't have any personal or financial relationship with the manufacturer.) They assured
me that they have been thoroughly tested and they will activate before the dishes force
the doors to open when the shaking starts. We have a lot of valuable old dishes, so
we're counting on them to keep the doors shut. Installation is made relatively easy if
one is handy with such things. Google Seismolatch for further information.
Try searching ''Safety 1st Magnetic Locking System Complete'' on Amazon. I have those
at home. I did not install them for earthquake mitigation, but after the last
earthquake, I was glad we had them (our house came with them). From the outside, you
would not even know that they are installed. To open, you just need to use the magnet
''key'' that comes with the system. I keep these ''keys'' on my fridge for easy access.
What items in your home do you secure in the event of an
earthquake? What straps or other products do you use?
Our big priority are bookcases and the TV- are the ''Quake
hold'' straps strong enough or do we need something else?
What the smaller things like pictures on walls, lamps, and
I can speak to the vases and lamps. I have a number of breakables on my
fireplace mantle and I use museum putty. You can find it on line, or in some
stores. It costs about 5 bucks. It's like silly putty. You place it under the object,
press down hard on the surface you wish the object to stay on, and it forms a
vacuum like seal. When you wish to remove object, simply rotate gently and the
seal is broken. It works like a charm.
Good idea to secure:
- Anything more than 4ft in height (consider 3ft if you have small children)
- Anything more than 400 lbs (consider 200 lbs if you have small children)
- Anything that would topple if a child climbed on it (dresser, tv stand)
- Anything that has potential to block an exit path from any room. Some
items may not tip over, but could ''walk'' across a floor in an earthquake, and
block a door.
- Items that could fall off a shelf in an earthquake and hurt someone -
books, knicknacks, etc (secure these with a 1-inch seismic lip edge, bungies,
quake putty, etc)
- Framed art/mirrors hanging on wall. Puzzle hooks, aka maze hooks are a
nice solution (Quake Hold A-maze-ing picture hook for example). The design
is such that the picture hanging wire can't be jostled off of the hanger. They
sell these at Osh and Home Depot.
- sit on the floor at your child's level and look up and around for things that
could tip, fall, or otherwise injure a child during an earthquake. Remove or
secure those items
- Look carefully at sleeping areas, at what could fall on the bed, since about
1/3 of your time is spent there
- Even without earthquakes, many children are severely injured each year by
climbing on bookcases and dressers, or by tipping over large screen TVs onto
themselves. Earthquake straps can do double duty to secure these items.
It is very important to screw the wall end of the strap into a wall stud. Simply
Using sheetrock anchors does little for earthquake safety.
To secure larger or heavier items, basically the more straps/anchors you use,
the more secure it will be. Check the size/weight specifications from the
manufacturer of the product you are using. I think Quake Hold is the most
common brand, because they are sold at Osh and Home Depot. Interestingly,
I looked for weight specifications on their web page, and only found advice
based on the size of an object, not the weight. Which kind of makes sense,
because the force of movement would likely be a factor in addition to the
Here are a couple of fantastic resources:
http://etcusa.net/the-earthquake-lady (this website also sells some industrial
seismic anchoring products)
BOOKCASES and other large casework:
L-shaped metal bracket - hardware store -
having the L wrong-side-up with one leg
screwed into the
top of the casework and the other leg bolted into a 2X4 in
the wall -
TV, COMPUTER, etc.:
Many, now, have holes in the stand to screw them down, but
commercial earthquake straps work too.
PAINTINGS, PHOTOS, other hanging art:
Get earthquake hooks in any hardware store - white
block that can be screwed into the wall and the wire for
hanging is put into the labyrinth -
Old wood-framed houses will sway more than new construction.
Except for brick chimneys, these houses will, most
When an earthquake starts crawl under a strong table - - -
best to have a plan !
You start strapping with the things that pose the greatest
hazard. Big and top heavy items like china cabinets, water
heaters, refrigerators, and heavy TV sets, things up high
with mass and weight that will injure you. Table lamps won't
hurt you much at all. The key to strapping is to bolt or
screw into wall studs not just plasterboard. So a stud
finder of some sort is needed. You can use strips of steel
sheet-metal, nylon rope,old hinges,steel cable, and nylon
cable ties so long as it/they are strong enough. There is a
type of cable tie with an eyelet for screws that is ideal
for earthquake strapping. If a huge bookcase is strapped
snugly to wall studs not much stress will be put on the
strapping material as the bookcase can't move much anyway.
Galvanized steel unhardened sheet metal or wood
screws/eyelets are best as the hardened ''grabber'' type
screws so common for everything these days are liable to
sheer off when loaded. The bigger and heavier/taller the
item the bigger the strap and the more straps you need.
There will be an abundance of online information on how to
strap and which items are critical to strap like water
heaters, clothes dryers, and stoves. Things with gas lines.
builder, engineer, woodworker
Use Museum Wax for your knick knacks and pottery. Child
proof locks for your kitchen cabinet doors. You can buy
picture hooks that sort of clip down so that the picture
cannot bounce off the hook.
For really large and heavy items I use earthquake cable
straps, which are plastic coated metal cables with screw
caps. They go through brackets that you attach to the
furniture and the wall. They're stronger and better
attached than the velcro and woven straps.
For larger pictures on the wall you can buy earthquake
picture hangers. They look like a maze in cross-section
so the hanging wire can't pop out.
Finally, for small decorative items you can buy earthquake
wax. It attaches small items firmly to a surface, but
scrapes/rubs off cleanly (with a little effort.) It's
also called museum wax.
We have three tall IKEA billy bookcases (made of particle
board) filled with books. They are securely attached to the
wall but I would like to do something to them to keep the
books (especially from the higher shelves) from falling off
in an earthquake and crushing my toddler. Ideally I would
like it to be something I can do myself. Ideas I have
1. Hot gluing a half inch high strip of wood to the edge of
each shelf to create a lip (I am not sure if this would
really keep the books on the shelves but it would be easy to
2. Attaching a chain across each shelf a couple inches up
from the shelf using eyehooks (I wonder if the eyehooks
would stay in during an earthquake or just get ripped out)
3. Drilling a hole in the side a couple inches up from each
shelf and running a metal rod through
Has anyone earthquake proofed their shelves and have any
good advice? Thanks!
I am not looking for recommendations for people to do this
for me and I know about the doors for the bookcases at IKEA.
I earthquake-proofed the inside of my house as you are planning to do,
including some very tall IKEA bookshelves.
Go to the earthquake aisle of any hardware store (I went to OSH on Ashby near
9th St. in Berkeley). Get the rubber bookholders - they come in various
and are fairly inconspicuous once installed. (Installation does require a
Your idea for creating a ''lip'' also will work and is one of the
recommended by the earthquake preparedness agencies.
Also, get rubber, gridded shelf-liner and lay a sheet down on each bookshelf,
then set the books on top of them. This keeps them from sliding. (Don't lay
books sideways. Put them upright as usual.)
Attaching the shelves to the walls with the hardware that came from Ikea is
probably insufficient. In the earthquake aisle, get either L-brackets or
straps and attach the shelves to wall studs with those. These hold more
The straps will indicate on the package how much weight each holds, and you
can figure out how many you need to use.
You should do the same with your major appliances (furniture straps attached
to wall studs).
For minor appliances iike printers, microwave, stereos, etc., get Velcro with
sticky backing in the earthquake aisle and attach the appliances to the
they're sitting on. You can do the same with plants.
For smaller breakable items (vases, etc.) and lamps (which can fall on you),
museum putty in the earthquake aisle, which creates a strong but temporary
One very important thing to do is attach safety latches to your cabinets,
especially in the kitchen, with all the breakables, sometimes overhead. You
also lay the dishes down, within the shelves, on the rubber matting so that
slide less and will be less likely to break even inside their safety-latched
In the utility room and/or garage, put all toxic chemicals and cleansers on
shelves, and/or in safety-latched cabinets. Make sure that that no two
containers of cleansers that are dangerous to mix with each other are near
other. (Bleach and some household cleaners shouldn't mix and create a noxious
gas...I forget now which ones they are.)
A friend in Mendocino uses small bungee cords on his china
cabinet. I think that would be easy. Just use those
screw-in round hooks on either side, like your ''rod'' idea,
and attach thin bungee cords to each side, about 3-4 inches
up from the shelf. They have a little give to them, but
books would still be held in.
A relative of mine who worked for the Red Cross advised that
the best way to keep books from falling off shelves during
an EQ is to pack them very tightly. Of course, if this is a
bookshelf you use often, that can be tough.
Unprepared, but working on it . . .
When my kids were younger I had similar worries and I just
packed the books in very, very tightly.
I really like your idea of the metal rods. I would use two
for each shelf-one and inch or two up and another about 6-8
inches up depending on book side. Make the rods extra long
for some stick out on each side. They can be placed from the
front slipping right to left. Another idea is bungee cords
and Styrofoam blocks-but not very pleasing to the eye. A
third idea is nylon cargo netting similar to that used in
trunks and the back of SUVs. If you bought a cheap (damaged
even) shelf unit from IKEA with a matching wood somebody
with a table-saw could rip the board into strips about 4-6
inches wide and cut to length to screw onto each shelf you
have from underneath. You need more than a thin strip to
keep the books from tumbling out. Hot glue probably won't
work as it will set up too quick to do a long board. Gorilla
glue would work.Use tape to catch foam out. Most important
of all is that the bookshelves are screwed/bolted to the
studs in the wall. The real danger is not a couple books
falling but the whole bookcase falling. There is a woman in
Oakland that used to do in-home child proofing of all kinds.
Can't remember her business name but you should be able to
Google her in Piedmont.
I, too, used some nicer looking bungee cords on some of our
bookcases, especially on the upper shelves. The bit of
''give'' made it easy to take out books, but wouldn't let them
fall off. One more thing that others haven't mentioned yet -
if the shelves are adjustable, make sure the shelves
themselves can't slide out of the case. That means you need
either a front ''frame'' (lip) that keeps the shelves in, or
you need to secure each shelf to its support brackets (we
used little screws; maybe not super strong, but better than
nothing). And if possible, put heavier books at the bottom
and save the upper shelves for lighter paperbacks.
Hi folks: We're thinking through possible disaster plans in case of
earthquake, etc. Our daughter is an 8th grader at Longfellow,
almost 4 miles from our Berkeley home. I work in SF (with a bicycle
in SF for part of my commute) and my partner in Oakland. We have
able-body privilege so we can walk long distances to meet our
daughter as needed. I'm wondering what sort of plans other families
have devised. Do the schools and afterschool programs keep the kids
until they are picked up by an authorized adult? We can't count on
BART, right? How did you commuters manage during the Loma Prieta
quake to pick up your kids and get home?
Gosh. The loma prieta quake was years before my highschooler was born!
I had no kids and spent the night in sf with friends after getting off
an ac transit bus. We drove home (1o of us in an suv) early the next
morning through marin county. I think folkks with kids made a point of
getting home that night and their kids were at friends homes by then.
The quake was in late afternoon, so took a while for some to get home.
We always have east bay people on our pick up list for the kkids. We
also have an outside of neighborhood site designated iif they cannot get
If there is a disaster your child will only be released to people named
on your emergency card. On my children's emergency cards there are both
family members and friends from school who can pick them up. If you
would like to know more about Longfellow's disaster plan or planning in
general please come to our next PTA meeting on January, 10 at 6:30. The
Red Cross will be presenting on this very topic.
Longfellow PTA President
With all the recent earthquakes in the East Bay, I am
updating my earthquake kit and trying to figure out what
to pack for my 5 month old baby. My biggest question is
regarding food. I have not worried about this before
because my baby is exclusively breast fed and I am still
on maternity leave. However, we'll be introducing solids
soon and more importantly, I'll be going back to work
soon. I guess I will put in a few jars of baby food, but I
know that milk is supposed to be the most important food
source for the first year. If an earthquake happens while
I'm at home, obviously there is no problem. However, what
if it happens while I'm at work? I work in SF and it's
unlikely I could make it home if there were a big one. My
baby will be in our home with a nanny, so I guess I should
just put some formula in the earthquake bag? Is there a
recommended formula for babies who have been exclusively
Also, the other things we have in the earthquake bag for
baby are clothes, diapers and wipes, a couple toys and
some infant tylenol. Anything else I am forgetting?
Thanks so much.
Worried sick, but trying to be productive
Any formula is fine. I found individual packets of Enfamil that could be mixed
with 8 oz water -- liked that because if sanitary conditions are bad they're not
open until the moment of consumption. A suggestion - put a note in your
calendar a month before it expires and donate it somewhere that could use it.
Mine just expired in the kit and I felt rotten throwing it away.
always be prepared
Any standard infant formula will do, since it's really only
for a true emergency (ready-to-serve is easiest, but more
expensive; powder + extra water is cheaper but more work),
with bottles and nipples. In just a few months, your baby
can drink regular milk.
Blanket (note that the typical emergency mylar blankets may
not be safe for infants).
In addition to jarred baby foods, consider some finger foods
(cheerios and similar).
Heavy bags for dirty-diaper containment until you reach an
appropriate place for disposal.
Hand sanitizer (for everyone).
If you have room, a cheap umbrella stroller or carrier will
make evacuation easier if needed.
So, I am cringing that I still don't have my bin together for earthquake
and I'm hoping that I can get some advice about the thing that keeps tripping
me up. I know that people advise using a rolling garbage bin, or a deck box. But
these things don't have any closing mechanism - don't they warp in the sun, and
then allow critters in? How do they stay closed? If this is the bin you use, how
you keep it securely closed (yet easy to open for an emergency)? Please advise!
This is getting ridiculous!
We use 2 of those big plastic Rubbermaid bins with lids
that snap tight. Purchased at Target. I'm not sure of the
size in gallons, but they are maybe 2x3x2 feet or
something like that. (Also have a few gallons of water
next to the bins.) We have some paperwork inside there in
a ziploc bag, but everything else (canned food, 1st aid
kit) is just loose inside the bins. They sit in our
backyard, not particularly under cover. Various vines have
been growing up around them, and rain certainly collects
on the top, so they get kind of gross-looking on the
outside. But I opened them up very recently, and
everything inside looked as clean as when we first stocked
it all 5-6 years ago. No evidence of critter entry or
If you plan to use a rolling garbage can, get a good quality
one so it will last (you don't want the wheels popping off
just when you need to move it!). You can secure the top
against animals with a bungee cord. You should keep the can
out of the sun if possible. We got one of those smallish
Rubbermade sheds and keep two cans in it - one with most of
the usual stuff that we'd want if we had to leave our
property, and one with blankets and extra clothes. (Each one
is lined with a big heavy-duty garbage bag for added
protection). There is also room in there for a case of
bottled water, a box with more food, and a siphon/hand-pump
to access water in the 55 gallon drum we keep next to the
tie something around it... use a black rubber tie down, or a
rope; it does not have to be super tight. or get a plastic
bin with snap on lid.
After watching 60 minutes tonight I got motivated to buy a
good survival kit for our 3 person family. Any
recommendations for a store around here or one online?
I hear you. I can't help but feel that we are next. The
impending doom got me off my ass and I found a good one at
OSH in Berkeley.
1025 Ashby Ave Berkeley
It's all enclosed in a back pack (kinda handy) and has
mostly dried foods. I'd call ahead to make sure they have
some in stock. I got the last one but they probably have
reordered by now. I also picked up a couple of good mid
sized first aid kits there.
Your Safety Place in Dublin has absolutely everything
(pre-assembled kits and individual pieces). You can order
online at www.yoursafetyplace.com or over the phone - they
are really nice and helpful too. I felt like a lot of the
kits that I saw elsewhere didn't really have all that much
so I ended up creating one by filling a large rolling
garbage can with all the essential pieces.
I'm gathering kits for earthquake emergency at our home.
Where do you put supplies? Our garage is in our basement and
I fear not being able to get below the house to access
supplies if left in the garage. Do you store
supplies/emergency kit outside or do you split it up around
the house? Where do you store water and how do you store
water? Any other essentials for 2 kids under 5yrs?
I recently took the Community Emergency Response Training
class (CERT) and they recommended getting a rolling garbage
can and filling with earthquake supplies to keep outside
(and of course label it so it doesn't get taken on trash
day!). i would not keep them in your basement because in the
event of an emergency like an earthquake, the last place you
want to go is deeper into your house, esp. a sub-level.
Also, keep in mind the kind of stuff we store in our
garage-which we probably shouldn't- (extra paint, chemicals
we don't want in the house, etc.) so there could be some
fire danger there.
Here's a link to a supplies list from the CERT class (and it
recommends how much water, etc.):
By the way, I highly recommend the CERT class - I learned a
lot and felt much more empowered of how to handle emergency
situations.You can find more info from your local fire dept.
I recommend storing EQ supplies outside the house in a
Rubbermaid-type of shed. I used to have a side business
selling sheds filled w/ EQ supplies but stopped doing that
years ago. My website is still up and you can visit it for
ideas of what the shed looks like and what supplies to put
into the shed. The website is www.epicenterservices.com
I recommend storing water in a 55 gallon drum. You can
purchase one from a company in Oakland with the tel #(510)
Our nanny lived through the huge Mexico City earthquake and
requested we have a backpack with kid food inside the house
for easy grabbing. We store more supplies outside in a
rolling, closed trash can a few feet from any building
walls. The city of Berkeley does periodic earthquake
preparedness classes which include an excellent book. The
basics are water, canned or easy prep food, warmth and
sanitation. We have two ''luggable loos'' which are toilet
seats clipped onto big paint buckets, to be lined with heavy
duty trash bags for waste. I still am not sure if we have
closed-toed shoes, flashlights, a crank radio and other
supplies in the earthquake bin yet, and the water has to be
changed out with new water preservative added. Haiti's
earthquake makes it very vivid, no?
- like to be ready
Our garage is above ground, so we have most of our supplies
there. Outside, we have a large, heavy duty locking chest
that contains our water (5 gal. per person plastic jugs,
rotated 3x year), a first aid kit, flashlights and
batteries, and a basic tool kit (wrench for turning off gas,
crowbar for prying things open, heavy gloves, duct tape,
plastic bags, etc.). We do have several first aid kits
distributed around the house, garage and car. Your post
reminds me that we need to add some small things for my son
for comfort and distraction, perhaps copies of some favorite
I am embarrassed to say that what has held up the completion of our home earthquake
kit/supplies has been the question of what the heck to store it all in. I know that some
have used the huge, wheeled plastic garbage bins. What do people recommend, that is
easy to get into, and is waterproof? Do those big plastic deck storage boxes stay water
tight? Please advise! Thanks.
My neighbor used a heavy duty plastic bin designed for outdoor
use and rats ate thru it and enjoyed his food and other
earthquake supplies. I haven't set mine up yet but I intend to
use steel or some type of metal container, possibly garbage
We use one of those horizontal Rubbermaid storage sheds, and so
far, it's been water-tight (it is under our deck, so that
probably helps some). Inside it, we have both a wheeled garbage
can with the basics (for ''evacuation'' situations), and then
less-portable boxes of additional canned foods, etc. for
situations when we wouldn't have to evacuate, but would be on our
own for a few days, potentially without utilities, or access to
stores, etc. In adition, we have a large water barrel that we put
a five-year preserver in, so we don't have to worry about it too
often. We keep the pump for that in the shed, too. Each car also
has a small kit with minimal supplies.
We use a very large rolling garbage can for our supplies. In
addition, we have some camping stuff stored in an outside shed
that we can get to...or pick through if it collapses in an
earthquake. Go to the American Red Cross website. They have a
good list of supplies for a home kit. Also, they sell supplies on
their site. Lastly, I encourage you to think of things like
feminine hygiene products, medications, and glasses. Stuff you'd
really not want to be stuck without. You should clean out the
supplies once or twice a year, too, to be sure stuff hasn't
gotten moldy or expired or whatever.
Our son had to put one together as part of a 7th grade project.
He also had to learn where our gas shutoff was, show that our hot
water heater was strapped, and so on. It was very educational for
us and made us get our act together!
Yes, the boxes made for outside storage that come with a tight lid and a lock, are
protecting the contents from rain.
We have had our storage box for about 2 1/2 years now, and everything in there is
separate plastic containers - 1 for medical supplies, 1 for toilet paper, 1 for
etc., and all is perfectly dry.
Before Christmas, I went through my earthquake food supplies and
discovered that several cans had burst/leaked and that many others
were nearly expired. I am now planning to replenish my supplies and
realize I don't really know what I should have for our family. I had
canned fruit, Chef Boyardee, Ramen noodles, condensed milk, instant
coffee, hard candy, peanut butter and lots of water. It hardly seemed
adequate for a family of four and its shelf life was less than a
year. Any suggestions for nutritious but edible AND storable food for
the earthquake kit? Thanks.
General earthquake preparedness handbook:
If you're not into do-it-yourself kits:
Meals Ready to Eat (MREs). My family are all from the New Orleans
area and had the ''opportunity'' to sample these from the military
post-Katrina and they were actually quite happy with them.
Katrina was the catalyst for us finally getting our supplies in
order. Some MREs can keep for as long as 10 years. We bought a
case from a military surplus site. You can find some through
www.military.com as well. So far, we have never tasted our batch,
but you can order differnt types of meals. I think this is a
better option than the cans because they seem to be made to
withstand disaster. They store well. We decided that we'll have
an MRE party when they expire and get another one.
REI has really great dehydrated meals that we use for camping trips, and
also for our
emergency kit at home. Mountain House is one brand that we like. You do
water to rehydrate them, though- so you'll need supplies for that, too
(camp stove or
burner and fuel).
This last tremor has pushed me out of my state of denial and I
am ready to attempt some earthquake preparation for my family.
One of those all purpose kits that is already put together is
probably most realistic for us. There are so many offered on
the internet with varying prices and supplies. Any
recommendations for what to get and where to get it?
Want to Be Prepared
We have camping stoves so we have a couple full cans of propane
in our backyard storage shed at all times. I went out and
bought three days worth of food for our family at REI. I bought
those freeze-dried bags of food for backpacking. I did this a
year ago and all the food has expiration dates between 2009 and
2013. I bought several gallon-sized water bottles and keep them
in the house and try to use and rotate them every 6-12 months.
I have a shortwave radio that can be cranked for power and a
first aid kit. I have a couple of packs of wipes for sponge
bathing. That's what we got.
One thing I found to be most important to prepare for
earthquakes is window film. I know a guy who installs a thick,
un-noticable clear film. email me if you like more info.
Whichever kit you decide upon (you can see ours at
http://www.quakeprepare.com ), be aware that no kit can supply
you and your family what you need in terms of water and food.
These must be supplemented. A 55 gallon barrel outside is a
great idea for ensuring sufficient water.
The recent 4.2 ''quakelet'' of March 1 was a good wake-up call.
It's helpful to remember that a 7.2 quake, which the Hayward
could easily produce when it ruptures, would amount to 35,900
times as much energy released as the 4.2 The shaking could be
as much as 1,000 times what we felt on March 1: shaking so
violent you can't stand up.
Kits are essential, and you might want to give some attention as
well to an automatic gas shut-off valve, securing your furniture,
and having your retrofit (if any) checked for adequacy.
Just half an hour ago I felt a pretty big earthquake for a few
seconds but enough to scare me to death: I'm new in California
and have no clue as to how to protect my child and I! So I
have a few questions for you guys:
1- What are the essentials in an emergency package?
2- Should I have one at home and one in my car?
3- Where do you store those things in your place?
4- We live on the third floor in an apartment building. Are we
supossed to leave the apartment if there is an earthquake or
are we supossed to stay in? I know they tell you to run under
a table... but on a third floor?
I checked on the internet and find tons of ads for companies
trying to sell you their anti-earthquake savvy... I can't
afford that though and, as I said, I'm new here so I don't have
much info. So, thanks in advance for all the advice you could
The US Geological Survey is my bible for all things earthquake.
They are also the place to go if you feel a quake and want immediate
info. (You can even get RSS feeds of recent quakes!) They are located in
Menlo Park--a great field trip if you are new to quake country!
With just a quick search, I found a few (free) documents:
Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country
Protecting Your Family From Earthquakes-The Seven Steps to Earthquake
Safety (in English, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean)
List of Useful Web Sites That Supplement the Above Handbooks
I've done a whole lot more e-quake preparedness than pretty much anyone
else I know (except one neighbor who's a true survivalist) I'm in no
denial that a big one could happen anytime, maybe in 10 minutes, maybe
not til I've passed on!
But I live in a house which makes it easier for me to do as much as I
have, which is that I have in the back of my back yard 4 large plastic
trash cans full of supplies, including: extensive first aid supplies in
a small backpack, (old) clothes & shoes, a small tent, a rain poncho, an
old sleeping bag, extra pair (old) eyeglasses, a hand crank radio, 3
flashlights & batteries, around
14 Meals-Ready-to-Eat (army rations from a surplus store, never go bad,
not gourmet but it's food), canned food, dog & cat food, medications I
take daily, cooking supplies (little one burner stove and fuel, a pot,
plates & cups & utensils, paper towels), soap & other personal hygiene
stuff, toilet paper, $100 cash, and probably more stuff I'm forgetting.
Everything's in double layers of trash compactor bags inside the trash
cans, each tied closed separately (they're the strongest), the lids are
held tight with bungee cords, and it's all stayed dry through many rainy
winters. I rotate the canned food and medications with fresh.
I also have a huge (I think it's 20 gal) water container that I bought
off PN for $5. (pure serendipity, I'm sure it cost a lot new).
My thought is to have some extra supplies to share with other people who
haven't planned so well.
Inside the house I have a large crowbar under my bed (for jammed doors,
etc), shoes & socks by my bed, a couple of small fire extinguishers (a
good idea anyway), & flashlights stashed all over the place. My large
bookcases are bolted to the wall.
I had an e-quake valve installed on my gas line, & had my house bolted
to the foundation.
In my car I have first aid supplies, a few warm clothes & pair of shoes,
3 gal water jug, medications, clif bars & p-nuts & raisins & a couple of
MREs, flashlights, cash, & probably a bit more stuff I'm forgetting. I
try to remember to keep my gas tank at least half full.
It was work to set it all up, but I made it a creative game & had fun.
I'm not paranoid about it, don't dwell on it, do know the best things to
dive under in my own house, & it gives me some peace of mind to know I'm
as prepared as I can be, and the rest is up to chance and nature.
It's just part of living here, it's nature at work! Maybe you can
translate some of this into apartment life.
OK, I don't to freak you out but our most recent quake was not a really
big one. The only reason I point this out is that the Loma Prieta (1989)
was a 7.1 -- keep in mind that the Richter scale increases
logarithmically (10x each time). That's why it is GREAT that the recent
minor quake has you thinking about preparedness, because there's a lot
you can do to be safe and prepare for a situation where there is no
May I recommend the Chronicle's quake page, which has links to all kinds
of resources, including supply kit lists, pet care, and so on:
I really don't think you need to seek out a consultant unless you have
some specific circumstances not covered by the general information.
There are some very common sense strategies you can implement, and in
doing so you can have very fruitful planning conversations with your
family, employer and friends.
A few more little ones and you might even think they are kind of fun
we keep a 72 hour backpack in the car and have flashlights and emergency
stuff at home too.
the red cross website has a good list of what should go in, and what to
do in a quake. also maybe usgs.gov has advice. and providentliving.org
Go to http://www.redcross.org and check out the disaster preparedness
section. It is incredibly helpful. I have lived in California my entire
life, and even though I am accustomed to earthquakes, I realized about a
year ago that I was completely unprepared. I used the Red Cross site to
get my act together and now feel pretty prepared.
i re-located recently to the Bay Area. please have a look at
for some useful info and resources.
I used to live in Los Angeles so I have been in some big earthquakes
(Northridge, Big Bear, Landers, etc.). I'm working on my earthquake kit
as well and there is a lot of information on the internet about what to
store (water, food for a few days,
etc.) One thing I did was purchase about three days worth of food for
my family from REI. I bought those freeze-dried meals for backpacking.
They will be good for years (they all expire between 2009 and 2013) and
all you have to do to prepare them is boil water. (We keep a camping
stove and extra fuel in a storage locker in the backyard.) As for what
to do during an earthquake, do not run outside! You don't want falling
plaster or other things on the building to fall on your head and
kill/disable you. Go under a sturdy piece of furniture to protect your
head, or go in a doorway (furniture is better but a doorway is good
too). After the earthquake is over, then you can go outside, although
beware of strong aftershocks. (The aftershocks started right away after
the Northridge quake.) Find a safe place outside, when the ground is
still, away from things that could fall on you if there was a large
aftershock. One nice thing about living in CA is our building codes and
building materials help protect us during earthquakes. We don't make
our buildings out of unreinforced concrete or bricks like the villeges
that get leveled during quakes in other countries.
I know that there are pleny of disaster/earthquake preparedness kits available for
purchase. We have some odds and ends tucked away. . . . But does anyone know of a
service that will help us get truly organized: make sure we have all that we need, that it
is accessible, that our disaster plans are sound.
It shouldn't be so difficult to accomplish on our own. But since it isn't happening, we
Looking for Help
I think this would help!
I am looking for a somewhat local source to purchase a 55 gal. plastic drum for water storage for earthquake supply. There used to be a source in Berkeley, but they are out of business. I have found a source in Idaho and another in Southern Ca. but shipping is very expensive. Does anyone know where I can get one. I also have many friends who are interested. Thanks.
10901 Russet St
Oakland, CA 94603-3727
Phone: (510) 430-0503
Sells new and used plastic and steel drums of all sizes.
- Vicious Recycler
I was looking for a 55 gal drum for drinking water for a while, couldn't find one, but it occurred to me after a while that at 8 lbs/gal, a full 55 gal drum would weigh 440 lbs and be a real problem to move. Besides that, you can't just pour out of it easily, it takes either a pump or a special stand that stores it on its side. So I forgot the drum idea and bought a number of 7 gal plastic containers from REI - later found them at Wilderness Exchange for about a dollar less. These are made specifically for drinking water, food-grade plastic plus there's a faucet that lets you put the container on a table top and easily draw off water. At 56 lbs full they're not really easy to handle, but manageable.
I'm in the process of trying to prepare emergency kits for our
family to use in case of an earthquake or other emergency.
I've been innundated with lists of what to gather together and
pack so I don't need help there. However I've noticed that
there's many many companies and catalogs that supply
prepackaged ''survival kits'', and would like to buy one.
(Usually includes first aid kit, food bars, flashlight, radio,
etc. and we would add to it.) It seems there is a great
variety in prices and possibly quality between the products of
these companies. Can anyone suggest a reputable company that
provides safety/survival gear and equipment? Online or local.
Thanks very much.
There is an earthquake store in Emeryville on Hollis, around 62nd
street. You can't see it from the street, as it is tucked away in a building.
You can find them in phone book; I'm sure the name starts with
Earthquake, and it may even be the Earthquake Store.
I purchased some home emergency kits and supplies from them, and I
purchased some larger, institutional supplies from them for my son's
school and for my previous workplace. They are very nice and extremely
helpful regarding what you'll need for what type of location for however
many number of days.
Need to Make A Visit There Too
I bought several kits from the Red Cross on line - they're very complete and seemed
the best deal.
The Red Cross has emergency kits. They also have lots of other
useful information. You can find them online.
I tried to order from Quake Kare, Inc right after Katrina. I
guess everyone had the same idea! After nearly a month, my
order had not even shipped. They did not tell me that there
would be a several week delay and they did not reply to my
emails. Finally I got someone on the phone and cancelled my
order due to poor customer service. After spending time online
looking for another supplier or a local store where I could go,
I finally decided to try Amazon.com. Not only did they have a
kit instock (although they are sold out of some), but they were
offering 25% off and free shipping. I just placed my order!
Preparing for the ''big one''!
Now that I have children I'm finally thinking about putting
together that earthquake preparedness kit. I am wondering if
experienced folks out there recommend a particularly good
box/storage unit to use outside. Looking at the recommended
items for 2 adults, 2 children and a dog, it seems like I'd need
a pretty good sized container.
we used two smallish rubbermaid containers, the black and gray
ones with snap-tight lids. smallish - is ~12x18x9 inches maybe?
(I'm not going to crawl under the bushes and check! :)) You
might want to use 2-3 smaller containers to make it easier to
store them as well as easier when you want to remove expiring
food stuffs and easier to move if they are ever needed!
shaken not stirred
Good for you getting around to this Bay Area essential!
If you have space, do one wheeled garbage can (so you can move
the stuff to a safe spot), and then either another garbage can or
a plastic bin with a tight lid to store additional canned food,
blankets etc. in case you just have to camp out in your backyard
for a while. Ideally, within the wheeled can, have a backpack or
two with only truly essential items, in case you have to evacuate
quite far. Keep some in your car at all times, too.
I line the can with a havy-duty garbage bag, and within that, put
items into zipper-loc bags. Tuck the liner-bag inside the can
(not hanging over the edge, and put a bungee over the lid to keep
it secure. There are spiders along the edge, but everything
inside seems fine even after several years. Don't seal the
zip-lock bags, though, because then condensation might be a problem.
I recently vowed to stop living like a college student and
finally fix my place up. I have a couch in the only logical
place it can go in our living room, and above it is a BIG
blank wall. It looks stark and ugly. Same goes for the
blank wall over our bed. I've read that it's not safe to
hang items of any weight above beds and places where you
sit. What then to do with the blank wall?
Although I've hung pictures with shatterproof glass and
shrinkwrapped posters, the best is textiles. A fun piece
of quilt or handmade rug are classic choices. But antique
clothing (kimono, lacy child's dress, beaded fabric hats
from indigenous cultures) or a collection of soft handmade
dolls can be wonderful. These can be hung directly on a
wall or nailed over a piece of rice paper or fabric
already tacked to the wall. I have seen paper cutout
silhouettes mounted on rice paper and fabric that way.
Long Chinese paper scrolls are grand. The truly skilled
paint a mural directly on the wall. I personally hung a
large Japanese resist cutout used in printing fabric that
I got for nearly nothing at a yard sale. Good luck!
I'd consider the risk acceptable as long as you have your
artwork securely attached to the wall. There are plenty of
strong hooks and hanging products available for the purpose.
However, there are also good options for lighter, softer
and safer decorative items. Textiles can be a good choice -
- painted silk hangings, batik cloths, tapestries, quilts. Or put up (securely wall-mounted) shelving and fill the
shelves with baskets, stuffed animals, or other collectible
If those options don't appeal, instead of mounting a
painting on the wall, you can simply paint the wall
itself! A mural (or other decoration applied directly to
the wall) is most often used in bedrooms, but you can
certainly do them in other rooms, and it can be any style,
color, etc. you like.
For the bed, maybe a large headboard bolted to the bed or
the wall. Or decorative mosquito net hung from the ceiling.
Or fabric curtains on the wall, draped and arranged. Many
ideas in the catalogs. For the couch, bolt a proper picture
to the wall. Or just put up a poster. Or a tapestry. Or
vintage jewelry on pushpins. Display your hankerchief
collection. How about postcards? Maybe a mural painted
directly on the wall.
You could hang a beautiful quilt or tapestry, or
(depending how formal your room is), a dry-mounted poster
that is not framed or under glass.
For heavier items, it is possible to hang them safely -
but you shouldn't use the regular nailed-in picture
hooks. Buy some of the special ''earthquake-safe'' ones.
There is a closed-loop version(you have to thread the
hanging wire through, and then re-fasten it to the frame),
and a kind that has a sort of ''maze'' the wire is
pulled down through - so it can't ''jump'' up and off the
hook. If the artwork is very heavy, definitely have it
hanging from at least two hooks, secured into the wall
studs with long lag-screws. If it a framed picture, I
recommend replacing the regular plate glass with acrylic
or safety-glass. R.K.
There are earthquake safety straps for heavy ojects that
hang the wall. You attach them to the picture and then
clip them on to a hook that's been put into a wall stud.
We got some off a baby proofing website, but I've also
seen them for sale on earthquake safety websites. So you
could hang a painting over your couch.
As for the bed, I would hang a tapestry - such as a kilim
rug, a weaving, etc. It's light and decorative. Another
alternative is to paint the headboard wall a different
color than the rest of the room or do a faux finishing
technique on that wall.
I'm in the process of devising a communication/shelter plan for
my family and our nanny in the event of a major earthquake or
other disaster. My biggest concern is that my husband and I
will be at work when disaster strikes, and our nanny will be
left to her own devices with our 10-month-old daughter. Our
nanny is intelligent, but she has not been in this country long,
and she has never experienced a major earthquake. Have any of
you given your childcare provider specific instructions on what
to do in an earthquake? Have you given instructions on when to
leave the house, when to go to a shelter, how to find a shelter
and how to get in touch with you should the phones be out of
service? Have you arranged to meet at a specific spot? Leave
messages at an out-of-state number? Any advice you have would
be most helpful.
I wouldn't feel any qualms about talking to your nanny about
an earthquake plan. If she's never been through an
earthquake, all the better a reason to do so. I would just
suggest you do so in as calm a manner as possible so as
not to frighten her. You might also check out getting an
earthquake supply kit for her car or an extra one for your
home that will contain the things she need fto care for
herself and your child until you all can be reunited.
We have implemented a ''disaster plan'' for our nanny in the event
of an earthquake, natural disaster and let's hope not but a
Having read the American Red Cross advice as to what to do in
the event of an earthquake, I have typed out instructions to
stay in the house, go under a table or doorway (etc). We have
instructions to not go go into the kitchen, turn on lights and
to stay in one room. Also, she is to call out of state
grandparents if she cannot get a hold of us in case lines are
down. We have also set up two meeting places in the event that
it is not safe to stay in the house. Also, she knows where to
find flashlights and radio in the event the power goes out.
If she is to leave the house, we always have our son's backpack
ready with his supplies, water, bottles and formula.
I think it is always a good idea to have an emergency plan-
our's is typed out and clearly posted on our fridge with all
important numbers. However, I also went over the plan with our
nanny to make sure our nanny knows what to do. The more prepared
you can be, the better everyone will feel.
Good luck and stay safe! Let's just hope you will never have to
use the plan!
Our babysitters and houseguests are shown a bright red binder
which we keep with the cookbooks in the kitchen. It contains
emergency information which can be consulted or taken along in
case of medical emergency or evacuation. There are three pages:
=Where to Find Us and Today's Information=
This is a blank form which I duplicate and fill in each time.
At the top it has our pre-printed cell phone numbers, and it
also lists the phone numbers for wherever we'll be (work,
restaurant, theater, hotel, etc.)
When the kids were small it also contained information on
when/what to feed them, bed times, etc.
=Emergency Information and Contact List=
With first-time sitters I review this information in person.
it includes our home address with cross-street and home phone
number(in case, heaven forbid, they have to call an ambulance),
our cell phone numbers, phone numbers/addresses of neighbors,
nearbyfriends and relatives and the Kaiser advice line.
A separate section contains information on location of
earthquake, medical supplies, and fire escape ladders and the
phone number of out of state contact.
If your nanny is not familiar with what to do in an
earthquake, you of course need to review some basic concepts such
as not running out into the street but finding a doorway,
interior hall, etc., and keeping kids calm and safe. It includes
recommended meeting places if the house has to be abandoned, and
a reminder to leave a written note as to where they've gone.
=Emergency Medical Information and Authorization=
This form can be taken to the hospital and is also a good form to
give to a friend of relative who is having your child for a
sleepover in case they can't contact you. It contains address,
phone number, and driving directions to Kaiser pediatric office
and emergency room. It also reiterates names and numbers of
friends and relatives to contact in an emergency. At the bottom
we sign an authorization for emergency medical care.
If anyone wants a copy of these documents to modify for their own
use, I'm happy to send them.
Anxiety about Earthquakes
I moved to the Bay Area in the late 1980s (in my early 20s) and was here for the
Loma Prieta quake. I've stayed in the Bay Area despite my constant low-level
fear of quakes. But this week's swarm of quakes on the Hayward fault is really
freaking me out. Maybe it's because I now have kids, or because I live in the East
Bay, or work in a tall office building. I've done all the appropriate preparedness
(house foundation is fully retrofitted, I have earthquake kits at home, etc.) but
can't help thinking that maybe it's just really stupid for me to be subjecting
myself and my family to this risk. So the question I have is whether anyone on
this list has considered leaving the Bay Area because of this or who has left for
this reason? Or if there is anyone else who is deliberating the same question
right now I'd like to hear your views.
While the place you call home should be as worry-free as
possible, it may not be possible to avoid the natural issues
peculiar to the area of choice - the NW still has seismic
issues and volcanic activity, the Midwest gets floods and
big snow storms, the SE and Gulf Coast gets hurricanes, and
the plains get tornadoes. Heck, even New England got hit
with a hurricane this year. It may come down to finding a
place where the risks are balanced against the joys of
family, friends, work, and play. Then, when you have found
that place, make preparations for the inevitable - making
sure that your home is secure (strapping to the
foundation,gas shut off valves, etc.) stowing emergency
supplies and provisions. You will never avoid a disaster
but you CAN be prepared and reduce the anxiety somewhat.
Rolling with it in NoCal
I was here for the Loma Prieta quake and moved to the East Coast a few
years later. I have to say that it was blissful to not worry about
earthquakes, truly a huge relief for many years. Then 9/11 happened a
mile away from me, and made my new chosen home just as much if not
more anxiety-ridden. So every place comes with risks and they are
sometimes totally unforeseeable-so that speaks to the ''every place
has risks'' arguments you so often hear. HOWEVER, I still believe
that your discomfort with the earthquake risks in the Bay Area is a
valid thing to respond to. Just because there is no utopian risk-free
place on this earth does not mean you should stay put.
I think it is particularly challenging this time around to push out
the terrible suffering and damage seen from the Japan quake, among
other recently severe ones, and not say to yourself, ''why on earth if
I can avoid this suffering for me and especially my children, wouldn't
I?'' Of course we have had many calm years here since the last major
quake and could have many more, but we do know that the Hayward Fault
is overdue for a major quake, and despite all the shoring up of our
homes and emergency kits we can prepare, there is no controlling the
infrastructures and potential dangers outside of our homes.
I think it's fair to weigh the dangers and/or how the anxiety is
affecting you versus what you would be giving up by leaving the Bay
Area. Unfortunately there are no perfect choices, but maybe it will
help you to lay out serious pros and cons of making a major change. I
feel like too often in the Bay Area, people tend to want to dismiss
genuine concerns about the risk of a major earthquake. We can't
control or predict earthquakes but we can decide how we want to deal
with the possibility.
Although I have not thought of leaving the East Bay because of the
Hayward Fault, I do take precautions (have an extensive earthquake kit
at home - with tent, have a backpack with basic supplies in car, and
have basic supplies at work, and have told kids where our meeting
points are in neighborhood and in bigger city area if can't get to
neighborhood.) Friends from out of town, and others we meet around
the country, have asked how we can live here. I remind them that
earthquakes happen around the country (New Madrid fault, EQs in New
England and DC). I also remind them of tsunamis, volcanoes,
hurricanes and tornadoes. If I lived in Tornado Alley, I might feel
how you do now. So, given that risks are everywhere, the trick may be
to figure out how to prepare as well as you can, and learn to relax
about that which you cannot control. It is kind of like living with
Another East Bay Parent
We left the bay area for Portland, OR a few years ago--part
of the reasoning was due to the ''100 year'' earthquake
occurring within the next 30 years. During the 100 year
anniversary of the Great Quake, there was so much focus on
it. I couldn't help think about it constantly--what would I
do if my kids were at school and I was in the city? Or on
the bridge? Or in the bart tube beneath the bay?
I'm sure that I probably should have been in therapy for it.
Every place has its risks, right? Earhtquakes could really
happen anywhere. But the probability of a huge quake
happening in the bay is a very good bet.
Loma Prealta was 60 miles away, and look what it did. I
can't image a huge quake *right* in the east bay.
I plan on returning after the quake happens!
It's interesting that 2 people wrote this week about
anxiety due to earthquakes, and others wrote about
emergency action in earthquakes...we're all in alert mode.
I go through anxiety for a while after earthquakes...Every
rumble adn vibration panics me...then it wears off.
I've lived in the Bay Area for 32 years.
I think we all hope the ''BIG ONE'' doesn't come any time
soon and we're willing to live with the occasional smaller
ones, but we live our daily lives, maybe in denial.
Where would we go? There has been flooding all over the
world, fires, other earthquakes, tornados...There is no
place that is free of natural disasters....
So, we do our best...have an earthquake kit, be informed,
maybe have a community plan set up.
And hopefully in our lifetime we'll never have the story
to tell about where we were when the big one hit.
Yes, I left the Bay Area in July primarily because I just
didn't want to live in fear anymore. I lived in Downtown
Oakland in a new, well-built building on the 7th floor, so
I felt safe at home. The problem was everywhere else. I
took BART in and out of SF, which meant I travelled the
tunnel twice a day. I worked in an old building in the
city, surrounded by huge windows on one side and a glass
wall on the other side of my office. And my daughter spent
her time at a nanny share in a very old house. And my
husband worked 30 miles away. After the Japan earthquake
and realizing that the only place missing a 9.0 quake in
the ring of fire was the west coast of the U.S., I said,
time to go. I'm in Denver now, experiencing my first snow
storm as we speak, and I know that this kind of weather
doesn't make me much safer...but, I don't know. I feel a
little more secure. I really miss the Bay Area, though,
and all it offers, from availability of fresh food to the
family we left behind. Still a bit torn about the move,
but after reading about these earthquakes, feeling a
little more justified in having moved for now...
Hi there. Yes! My husband and I are thinking of leaving the
area due to the earthquakes! We are both from the L.A. area
and are no strangers to quakes. I've been waiting
(literally) for ''The Big One'' for my whole life. Those past
quakes shook my kids up pretty good and we are all nervous
wrecks. My hubby and I have had to ask ourselves is it worth
putting us all through this stress? We are renters and have
no real ties here--both work from home as self-employed--so
we are in the midst of coming together as a family in
creating a pros and cons list of staying here. Granted,
there is danger everywhere and we know that. We are not
running from danger, per se. We are leaving an area that is
prone to quakes, where a large quake WILL happen with
devastating consequences. We are all quake phobic and would
rather try our luck with an area with more predictable
natural disasters (i.e. fires, floods, hurricanes) where
there are warning systems set-up. I know, it probably
sounds crazy to most folks but you have to do what's right
for your own family, right?
wingnuts running from shaky ground
As a Florida girl, I can completely relate to your fear of the big one
hitting the Bay Area sooner than later! The truth of the matter is
that no matter where you move, there will be some danger with mother
nature! I came from hurricane paradise and yes, you do get warning
about a hurricane coming... But have you ever experienced one? You
feel like your house is going to rip apart, for hours and hours!!!
If you move to another area you will deal with either or a combination
of: snow storms, hurricanes, floods, slides, sand storms or worst,
tornadoes. I say, enjoy the gorgeous state of California and know
that every other place in the country have their own issues... Minus
the gorgeous weather and amazing green spaces!
I'll take a shot of earthquake over a hurricane!!!
I have noticed a few questions regarding earthquakes and perhaps 2 of
people wanting to move. I have grown up in California my whole life
and love it, but have considered moving time and again due to high
cost. Though other areas have other high risks to consider. The
midwest has tornadoes, the east coast and south have hurricanes,
flooding can occur in other areas of the US, Arizona has drought. So
I am answering your question with a question - Where can you move that
doesn't have some kind of risk factor to go with it?
There are risks everywhere. Unfortunately earthquakes cannot
be forecast, unlike some risks. Still in some ways living in
the Bay Area is less risky for my family because we are able
to live without a car. In many parts of the country we would
have to drive everywhere. Statistically the risk of being
hurt or killed in a car accident is significantly higher
than being hurt or killed in an earthquake.
It would be better if Berkeley was better prepared. If you
have some extra energy to devote to it, why not encourage
the local government to improve the seismic stability of
buildings and the university to taking some responsibility
for having basic supplies on hand for students
(realistically most of them probably have nothing)?
A bit rattled but trying to be rational
You'd have to leave the west coast entirely, couldn't live
in Hawaii or Alaska, would need to make sure you weren't
near a faultline in the midwest or on the east coast
faultline (Washington DC) to completely avoid the
possibility of an earthquake. I guess it depends on what
regional emergency issues wouldn't freak you out. Floods?
Hurricanes? Tornado? Fires? Mud/Landslides? Volcanos? Every
area has some potential hazard.
I grew up with earthquakes as my reality. My 70 year old
mother has been in 2 major Seattle earthquakes in her
lifetime, and many small ones that maybe knock over an item
or two. I've felt two larger than the ones this month when I
lived in Seattle, but they were still insignificant. I'm not
familiar with the entire earthquake history of the Bay Area,
but the only ones I ever hear anyone talk about are the 1906
quake and the Loma-Prieta quake as the destructive ones in
the area in the last 100+ years.
Earthquakes make me nervous too, especially now that I have
a child. They are unpredictable and can be highly
destructive, but they don't happen that often. If you don't
already have some place that you want to move instead, then
I would advise taking care of setting up an emergency
contact out of state for checking in with family members, an
emergency plan, an emergency kit, and knowing things how to
shut off your gas if there is a leak instead, so you at
least have that peace of mind.
shaken but prepared
My husband and I were discussing this recently. We moved
here from Indiana 4 years ago. Many people in Indiana share
your anxiety over the earthquakes in California and say they
would NEVER live here because of that. However, we can't
fully understand what all the fuss is about.
But, this is where we are coming from:
When I moved to Indiana when I was 9, I was TERRIFIED of
tornadoes. Every couple of weeks for a good half of the year
you see tornado warnings, the sky turns black and purple,
terrifyingly loud thunder and lightening cracks and rumbles
the sky. Every time you are sure you will die. At least, I
was for the first 2-3 years.
By the time I was a teenager, I was well over it. Why? If a
tornado warning happens, you shouldn't leave your house. You
don't want to be caught under a tree or in a car when the
hail, lightning, rain, etc. strike. You can't get in your
car and outrun it since you have no idea where it is and
where it might go. If a tornado comes, it could tear your
house down (and ours, like most in the area did NOT have
basements). What can you do? Prepare. Get flashlights and
blankets and go to a room in the house that doesn't have
windows. And that's it. In nearly 20 years of living in
Indiana and countless tornado warnings, I never ONCE
experienced a tornado. They blew through rural areas and
neighboring towns, but I was never in one. And, had I been,
the likelihood of destruction or death would have been
small. Even destructive ones were rarely fatal.
So, what is my takeaway? There's nothing you can do EVER in
the event of a natural disaster except prepare. Period. Even
when you think you can control it, you can't. If you live in
the middle of a hurricane area, maybe you'll have trouble
getting out in time because you get caught in traffic and
all the gas stations run out of gas. Then what? You just
can't run away from a disaster.
Maybe I'm in denial. I never experienced any major quakes.
But I do know that they happen everywhere, even in Indiana.
California is the safest place possible if one does happen
(buildings are built to withstand them, codes are designed
for safety in the event of an earthquake). I feel I am safer
in California in an earthquake than anywhere else.
So, you have to make your own decisions, but I'll take the
earthquake risk over snow, ice, rain, hail, tornadoes,
floods, and hurricanes any day.
Cali is better. No matter the risk.
With the recent quakes I am extremeley anxious about the
PG&E gas pipelines running through our Berkeley residential
areas and parks/schools. Other than being anxious, however,
I don't know how to deal with the danger of them rupturing
in a major quake. Could anyone with some knowledge of such
matters give me some context or advice for the likely danger
and what, if anything, can be done to prepare and advocate
for greater safety and oversight? Thanks.
FYI, This post from Berkeleyside has gas line maps/info:
Several questions about quakes this time. I think I will
write one response.
About gas lines. The PG&E gas lines are probably a risk, but
it seems they are more proactive since the San Bruno
explosion. The gas lines in people's homes are probably a
bigger risk. When a home is sold, water heaters must be tied
down so that they don't fall over and break the gas line in
a quake. The homes that haven't sold are probably a much
bigger risk than the PG&E gas lines. I don't know what to do
Other ideas on how to prepare below. Use your anxiety to get
Many people have mentioned getting an earthquake kit. I
don't know what is in that kit, but even if there is water,
you probably need more. Store water. Keep canned food in the
The City of Berkeley offers Emergency Preparedness Classes:
maybe other cities do, too.
Have a neighborhood party. Get to know each other. Make plans.
Have an engineer look at your house and suggest retrofit
How about tools to extract trapped people. And shoes by your
bed in a protected location so that you can still walk
around your house even if all the glass breaks out of your
Have a contact person out of state that everyone in your
family can call. The lines within the state are going to be
There are so many ways to prepare. Get a book or find a
website. Read it. Take action.
Hi. I am new to the East Bay and just experienced my first
earthquakes this last month of my lifetime. I have to admit I
was scared out of my mind and if I could would move away. I am
prone to anxiety and this has really been troubling me. I have
made my emergency kit bag but I can't help but feel a general
sense of worry throughout the day. I know anything can happen
anywhere but that doesn't seem to allay what I am feeling.
I am wondering how other people handle this. Is there some way
to feel more relaxed about this? Are their earthquake anxiety
Thanks for your help.
As a native Cali girl, it's just not a big deal, if you take
precautions. Know how to turn off your gas main, usually a red handle
outside. Have a stash of EQ supplies in the trunk of your car
including some small bills of cash. Bolt appropriately big pieces of
furniture to the wall. If you own a home make sure the foundation has
been re-inforced(not too expensive to batten it down. )
shake, rattle and roll in Caligurl
I, too, have been feeling tremendous earthquake anxiety since the
quakes. I've been thinking about trying to contact other people who
feel this way and maybe getting together to talk about it - sort of a
support group. If you're interested in this, feel free to get in touch
with me. I live in Rockridge. (I have no training in groups, psych,
etc. - I'm just a normal scaredy-cat.:) BTW, I even did some googling
about this fear. Apparently there's actually a name for it:
Every time we have an earthquake I go through a few weeks
of anxiety. Every rumble and vibration makes me freeze in
my tracks, waiting!!!
But I've been here in the Bay Area for 32 years.
You can do your best to prepare...Have an earthquake kit
outside your house in a protected container, a kit in your
car...But you can't possibily know where you'll be, where
your kids, friends, pets, etc. will be, so you can only
prepare so much and hope for the best.
Pick your disaster....floods, fires, earthquakes,
hurricanes, tornados...It seems something everwhere.
I grew up in CA and experienced my first quake as a 8yo
while at school. It was a 7 something centered a few miles
away so STRONG. The only kid in my class to cry was the
biggest boy so while I wanted to wail, I didn't. I think I
should have! For the next many many years, whenever a quake
hit, I freaked. I wouldn't sleep for days. I remember
being a 15 year old and staying awake night after night
after night with all lights on in my room and reading and
fearing every little house settling sound.
So I know how you feel!
But sometime int he past few years I relaxed (i'm almost
40). I don't know if it was having kids and needing to be
strong for them or maybe it was simply explaining to my DD
that her first quake was like the mountains jumping in a
jump house and shaking us. I don't have a magic elixir for
your fears but I send you a hug and was there once too.
not so jumpy anymore
Many of us in the Bay Area experience
nervousness/heightened awareness after quakes. As my
kayaking coach used to say, ''It is OK to have butterflies -
- just get them to fly in formation.'' Being prepared will
make you feel better. Take a local CERT course. Get
involved with emergency planning in your neighborhood or
city -- it is good to know your neighbors. We have our
earthquake gear in two sheds in our back yard and I carry
emergency supplies all the time in my car in a big plastic
tub. I put all my important documents and thumbdrives,
extra keys, etc. in a plastic box that I can grab from my
desk in an emergency.
There are a number of good sites to visit on preparedness.
You can start with www.fema.gov.
I feel more prepared by training with the county in search
and rescue, certifying in CPR and 1st Responder First Aid.
Knowledge is a powerful thing. Also, work out a plan with
your kids and have an out of state friend or relative for
you and your kids to check in with. Remember that cell
phones and land lines will probably be down or overwhelmed
in a mass disaster. I also have a ham radio license so I
have another form of communication. I am at the extreme
end of preparedness, but it does make me feel better.
I've lived in the Bay Area my whole life, and I have plenty
of earthquake (and other) anxieties. I'm not sure if this
method would work for you, but I have found it infinitely
helpful to become very educated in the area of my anxiety.
It is perhaps a little pragmatic, but understanding the
''real'' risk of such events (What are the chances of any
given person dying in an earthquake?), is very useful.
USGS's website is a great place to learn about earthquakes,
how they happen, what kind of substrates are safest. Know
the earthquake safety of your own house and workplace.
Fear builds because of the unknown; knowing eases it.
Yes, there is a big one coming. No one knows when. Let me just say
that i am an east coast girl, and I get what yor are thinking. I was,
however, at BWI airport for the 5.9 in August. It was not so bad. Many
people were terrified, and were running over me, and my open bags (I
was at the scale trying to get my bags under the weight limit), and
tripping INTO my bags running like mad cows trying to get outta the
airport. I had no idea what it was, and to their defense, I suppose
they thought it was a bomb. What we had here was a couple 4.0s. The
5.9 on the east coast, though geometrically larger,was not really that
bad. It was that earthquake that set me a bit more at ease about
living here. The mere idea that what I thought was an earthquake-free
area, could have such a large earthquake meant that no place is
safe. On top of that, the fact that only one wall, and the national
cathedral's steeple took damage, made me feel a lot safer. Those
things--in a non-earthquake building zone took a 5.9. In theory,
things here ought to fare much better.
Yes, I still worry, and yes, I have a tent, water, food, blankets, and
so on in a big plastic bench outside my home. I have a plan in place
for me and the kids should a quake worth noticing happen. Yes, I still
worry, but I do my research, and found a site that said the daily risk
of an earthquake here was about the same as the daily risk of having a
car accident. I still don't like driving under overpasses, but the
life here is so wonderful for me and my kids. Back east, there was
little art in schools, no theater, not many things like museums, and
computer camps. I can go back east, where it's ''safe'' (but they
still had a 5.9 earthquake--greater than any of the 4 that I have
experienced here by leaps and bounds--or I can enjoy what is offered
here, free of the running battle with tropical storms, flooding, and
deadly heat waves.
Yes, I think about it a lot. I think about a friend's great gran who
came here from Ireland, who experienced the great earthquake at the
turn of the century. They whitewashed the chicken coop, and moved in
there, because they were afraid that the house would come down around
them. They did NOT, however, move away. They stayed.
So, my advice (because it works for me), not knowing any support
groups, is to do your research. Look at the safety of both
places. Look at crime, hurricanes, floods, heat waves etc., and see if
it really IS more dangerous here. Be sure to add in quality of life,
and then go be prepared.
There were several questions on the theme of earthquake
fear: It's okay to be scared of earthquakes! It's a
logical response. However, the fear should then spur you
to act or react, to fight or flight. I want you to
fight. This means earthquake kits, earthquake water, a
wrench attached to your gas pipe. That means knowing your
neighbors, block captains, and taking any CERT or NERT
training your community offers, doing any seismic
retrofitting you can afford.
I find the irregular occurrence of earthquakes far less
frightening than the seasonal regular occurrence of
tornadoes, flooding, or hurricanes (and I am scared of non-
California stuff like open-carry laws or lax clean
But you can't escape nature. There are earthquakes even
in Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia. Where are you
going to go? Here, because Calif. is a known fault zone,
there are building codes to protect you from earthquakes.
Does St. Louis have that? You can't pick what you are
afraid of, but you can pick your response. Be in charge
of it. It's okay to be afraid, but do something to make
you stronger to fight back!
scared too, but staying right here
I know it's very scarey when the earth moves and you're
not expecting it. I'm a Bay Area native, and all I can say
is maybe we get used to it. In most other parts of the
country, they have pretty dramatic weather, regularly.
Thunder storms, tornados, heat waves, snow, blizzards,
floods, and of course even more intense now with the
climate change. Those people deal with 'acts of God' on a
regular basis, and people die and are homeless and injured
all the time. So I'm not sure where you'd go that is
significantly less dangerous, since we have the world's
best climate here (except it was a bit hot this year), and
every now and then, a little tremble. Someday it'll be the
Big One, but not every winter. Helps to know your
neighbors and have supplies put aside. Prepare, then let
My brother lives in Chengdu and has thankfully has been unharmed in
the earthquake. Now my parents, who live on the East Coast, are
anxiously begging us to leave the bay area because they are terrified
we will also be in a major quake. I can't deny the possibility of
this, obviously, but we have a house, jobs and our life here. My
mother is calling everyday and says she can't sleep because she is so
worried about us. I've encouraged her to talk about this with friends
or a professional. We have a disaster kit and have made what
improvements we can to our house. Aside from that I can't see what we
can do about geologic facts. I also think they are feeling out of
control because they are in the process of moving near my other
brother, which is generally as sisruptive and stressful as moving
Does anyone else have a similar issue?
I would be terrified, too, if I thought that the result of an
earthquake here would result in the amount of destruction that
occurred to the buildings in Chengdu. But....earthquake design
standards here in California are very, very, very high and the
building codes are much, much, much more strictly enforced here
than in Chengdu. In addition, we do not have the graft and
shoddy workmanship that is common in many developing countries
like China and we do not have any really old houses (100s of
years). For these reasons, earthquakes in developed countries
like the U.S. typically do not have the same amount of
devastation nor the high loss of life that we see in Chengdu. Do
a web search to compare the pictures of the destruction and the
loss of life in developing vs. developed countries for
earthquakes of the same magnitude and you'll see a big
difference. Share your findings with your parents.
If you haven't done so already, hire an engineer to spend an hour
or two looking over your house and foundation (and your soils if
you live on a very steep slope) and make recommendations (most
likely some foundation work). The typical wood houses we have in
the Bay Area are very sturdy.
I am an architect with a construction background and a strong
knowledge of construction methods and materials, so I know what
I'm talking about. I hope your parents begin to sleep better
My folks were like that after the Loma Prieta. My mom would call
me every day and tell me I had to move because it was too
dangerous. My husband finally took the phone from my hand and
told my mom in no uncertain terms to stop tormenting me.
Fact is, we live in earthquake country. But the thing to tell
your folks about next time they call is that we know we live in
earthquake country and have very strict building codes because of
that. Tell her everything you've done to protect your house, if
that would make her feel better. Or simply reassure her that a
huge cause of the horrible death toll in China is because of
shoddy buildings, not because of the quake itself.
There is only so much any of us can do to protect against
disaster. We do those things here, we help others when they need
help. Talk to your folks about what works. Things will settle
Beg them to stop driving their car, because statistically,
that's how we're all most likely to die. Google ''cause of
death, statistics'' and then forward them the link and ask them
to get off your case. What's more likely? Dying in an
earthquake, getting hit by lightning, or being eaten by a
shark? You might be surprised to find out...
The most important thing to do is to educate them on the PROFOUND
differences in building codes in the US/California (every time
there's an EQ, more is learned and it's incorporated into the
building codes), and China (no building codes to speak of, no
such thing as enforcement). This is the main reason that there's
been such a disaster. In CA, we don't build w/ brick, which tends
to fall apart, for example. In fact, you might also tell your
inlaws how nervous some californians get in other parts of the
US, where we still build w/ brick. Tell her that the biggest EQ
in the US was in New Madrid, MO. And that an EQ in the east coast
is not impossible, just less likely to have a big one. (actually
they do have EQs there, just so small as to be unnoticeable).
There are also profound differences in infrastructure between
here and China. And profound differences in planning-both
individuals and govt agencies. Honestly, I'd much rather deal w/
EQ risk here than hurricane risk in the southeast. Remind her
that our most recent large EQ, the Loma Prieta in 1989 was
magnitude 6.9. It killed 57 people. It was a huge disaster. That
same EQ in China would have killed tens of thousands. Not to say
that it couldn't get worse, since it's predicted that the max EQ
here would be about 8.3 (though it could be bigger).
Check out these sites, and get prepared:
or just google ''bay area earthquake preparedness''
You could compile information on how disastrous the disasters in
other regions have been (snow/ice, hurricanes--eg Andrew,
Katrina), tornadoes, & flooding, for example. Some of these
places getting hit more than once.) I don't think that she'd be
consoled by understanding that statistically, but it's MUCH
riskier to get in your car every day than it is to potentially
get into an earthquake (which probably is lower likelihood than
airplane accidents too).
And yeah, she may need to talk to a professional.
My family is moving to the East Bay in about a year and I can't
help but be worried about earthquakes. I know that there are
zones that are considered more of an earthquake risk than
others. Does anyone have some words of wisdom for me on how to
live in an area like San Francisco/East Bay where earthquakes
are a part of life. Can anyone recommend areas that are
considered more protected than others? How is day-to-day living
effected (ie- Do people ''earthquake-proof'' their homes like
they might childproof them?)?
shakin' in my boots
I'm from out of town too, and this is how I've dealt with these worries
1) bought a good earthquake insurance policy (available even if you're
2) earthquake-proof my house (e.g. buy kits to strap large pieces of
furniture to the walls). In addition, keep a ''disaster preparedness'' type
of kit around (food, water, space blankets, matches and candles, first aid
3) realize that everywhere you live, there's some disaster waiting to
happen (hurricanes in the southeast, tornados in the midwest, plane
crashes, car wrecks -- even earthquakes in all kinds of places where
they weren't expected before). Since I've taken all reasonable
precautions, I force myself to quit thinking about it. If God wants to call
me home, he's going to do it, and there's nothing I can do about it. I'm a
natural worrier, so this takes some effort, but I do work on it.
I don't worry about earthquakes. I have lived in the Bay Area my
whole life (30 years) and there has been one really bad
earthquake here. There's nothing you can do about it, really.
Have your earthquake supplies handy and have your home
retrofitted to sustain damage in a quake... But I doubt that
anything can really prepare us for a really huge quake. I am not
trying to be fatalistic, but earthquakes are definitely something
we cannot control or predict (no matter what the seismologists
say). I say let it go.
Hi, before I get too far into this message (it's bound to be
long), I want to mention a great website for lots of
preparedness ideas www.preparenow.org. They have loads of
links to preparedness sites, government departments, USGS maps
of earthquake hazard areas, and other wonderful sites. Check
I'm glad to hear you are thinking ahead about being PREPARED
out here. I guess there are disasters to be prepared for
anywhere-tornadoes, ice storms, blizzards, floods,...everyone
should have basic preparedness stuff. But there are some EQ-
specific things that help. You ask whether everyone does
earthquake-proofing like childproofing here. The truth is,
some of us do, but most still live in denial! There are lots
of things you can do to improve your preparedness at home, such
as securing tall furniture to walls (and tall doesn't just mean
6' tall - you wouldn't want a 4-foot bookcase full of books
falling on a crawling baby!); keeping emergency supplies
(foood, water, first aid, flashlight, blankets, etc.) in an
easily-accessed place; being sure the water heater in your home
is properly secured (one piece of plumbers tape across the
front is NOT adequate); seeing to it that the house/building
you live in has been retrofitted to resist EQ forces(if it is
new, it should be built to current codes, but many older
buildings have not been strengthened). Of course, this only
helps in your own home. Compared to places like Algeria and
rural Turkey, the SF area is extremely EQ-safe. Buildings are,
on the whole, safer, and of course all new censtruction is
built to strict codes. However, your child's friends' families
might be in the ''denial'' category. So your child might end up
sleeping over at someones house, right under a 7-foot tall full
china cabinet that has not been secured in any way. Also, I
have found it pays to ask your schools and daycare providers
what they have done. Preparedness plans are required, but some
are better thought-out and implemented than others.
If anyone wants more suggestions, feel free to e-mail me (I do
not represent myself as an ''expert'', but I have done lots of
Well, of course we're all living in denial, and that's the only
way to live here--because if you think about it all the time,
you'll go insane.
But here are a few things to give you perspective and/or advice
--the closer you are to the water, generally, especially on flat
ground, the worse off you are. This is because much of the land on
the bay is really fill; on older maps, this ''land'' shows up as
water. If your house is on sloping ground inland, you're probably
on bedrock. You can also check out http//www.abag.ca.gov/bayarea/
eqmaps/pickcity.html to find earthquake hazard maps for specific
--generally, the newer your house is, the better, because
earthquake codes have improved; but you have to take into
consideration size and building materials. Therefore concrete
apartment buildings with parking garages on the first floor (circa
1960s) are a bad bet compared to a Victorian single family house,
because the former tend to ''pancake'' in a quake, while the latter
will just dump a little gingerbread woodwork around your ears.
--if you're buying an older house, there are types of seismic
reinforcement that can help a lot; namely, bolting your house to
the foundation (older houses just sit on top of their foundations)
and covering the cripple walls (i.e., portion of exterior walls
between foundation and floor joists) with plywood, which adds
shear strength and stability.
If I wanted maximum peace of mind, I would live in a single-story
wood-frame house with no exterior masonry, either new or
seismically reinforced, in a nice hilly place like Rockridge
(that's rock under your feet!) or North Berkeley. And then I would
chill out and enjoy the weather.
Not a geologist, but I play one on TV
You can check out www.abag.org for information about earthquakes,
particularly there are maps of shaking intensities and likely
damage. I was hesitant to tell you about those, because they look
scary, particularly to someone who's not familiar with earthquakes.
But they will give you an idea of what areas are more or less
earthquake safe. Basically proximity to a fault line that's due
for a quake and sitting on land fill are the two big issues. When
we were house shopping, we avoided Alameda and other areas of land
fill. We ended up buying a house in the El Cerrito hills, which is
very close to an active fault, but is on solid ground (not true of
much of the hills). As for day to day living, you can't let it
bother you too much. People do prepare for earthquakes by storing
food and other necessities and having an exit strategy from their
homes. It's also important to bolt tall furniture to walls.
There's a big industry for earthquake retrofit of houses and some
cities will even give you a credit on your tax bill. It important
to have the house bolted to the foundation and shear walls
installed. These are not particularly expensive fixes.
Yes you earthquake proof your house the way you child proof it.
It might ease your mind to find out what you need to do to make
your house earthquake safe. I'm sure you can find a website that
gives ideas for earthquake safety. Also, if you are buying a
house, you'll have it inspected and they'll tell you if there is
anything you need to do structurally to make your house safe in
an earthquake. If it makes you feel any better, I've lived here
all my life and lived through lots of earthquakes including two
very large ones, the loma prieta here in Oakland and the
Northridge quake in Los Angeles. They can be very frightening
but if you are not living in a hazardous environment, they are
usually not harmful. You might also want to find out what you
are supposed to do during an earthquake which I am sure you can
find on a earthquake preparedness web site. It won't be so scary
if you are prepared.
You don't say where you're moving from...do you live in an area
where there are yearly hurricaines, tornados, debilitating snow
Yes, California is known as earthquake country and there have
certainly been a few big ones in the last century (and even last
few decades), but I think most of us live our lives without
thinking about it much.
Many homes are earthquake retrofitted on the foundation, most
people I know have an emergency stash outside the house of food,
blankets, tools, etc. just in case. Some people have earthquake
insurance. Schools have emergency earthquake procedures to
follow, in case. We are educated in disaster procedure in the
I'm not a geologist but I do know that we have lots of teeny to
small earthquakes all over the place and once in a while there
is a biggy centered somewhere that causes damage in one area and
maybe it's felt slightly in distant areas. There are faults all
over the place, some bigger, some smaller. I don't know that any
one area is ''safer'' than any other. Our house is 1 1/2 blocks
from the Hayward Fault but our neighborhood is built on solid
stone. Don't know if that makes any difference.
I imagine at some point the Bay ARea will have another
disasterous earthquake (they say we will). It could be in 20
minutes, tomorrow,or not for many years.
My husband, born and raised in Berkeley, always says he'd much
rather live here where there are occasional earthquakes than in
the midwest where tornados are a way of life, or in the east
where hurricaines are pretty much guaranteed every season.
So, good luck on your move. California is beautiful, the whether
is great(or is it weather?), good food,diversity, great people.
You'll learn what safety precautions to take. Be sure you do
that, then relax and enjoy.
Here are some websites that might provide you a little more
feeling of control during the transition to the Bay Area.
There are natural disasters in all parts of the world that one
should be prepared to face, depending upon where you live (I
grew up with tornado shelters). Having a plan and rehearsing
it, knowing your neighbors, and making your house and
belongings as secure as possible are the measures you have
control over. You might want to have a geological assessment
of the land your prospective abode sits on, to determine which
areas are most stable. A good realtor will also be able to
provide you with stability information about certain areas over
United States Geological Survey--search by state or disaster
Neighborhood groups ask the police or fire department in your
prospective neighborhood if there is an active Community
Emergency Response Team (CERT) in that area.
Other good information (many categories) for the Bay Area can
be found by searching on http://www.craigslist.org/
Welcome to the area!
I have lived in the Bay Area my entire life (minus a few years
abroad in my twenties), and been through at least 3 major quakes
that I remember. There's lots of little ones that we just don't
ever feel. I am WAY more afraid of tornadoes and hurricanes than
We live on a fault line, and have done some work on our house
(bolted the foundation, etc). We also have an emergency stash of
food and water, flashlights, etc. The Red Cross has great info
on how to eathquake proof your place at
Friends I know that have also lived here since birth joked
during the dot-com days that we needed a good earthquake to
scare away the dot-commer's ) It's truly not a part of our
everyday living-- it seems to happen way less than flooding,
hurricanes, or tornadoes in other parts of the US (all are way
more scarier for my family!).
Good luck with your move!
I have lived in the Bay Area my whole life (34+ years) and the
only ''real quake'' that I can remember causing any damage is the
1989 quake that caused the Cypress Structure to collapse and
even then I didn't even lose power at my house. I only lost 1
trinket and that was because one fell on top of another that had
fallen. A lot of others fared worse. I do use museum wax on
collectibles and strap my furniture to studs and such but I
guess living here I am not too worried about it. I also take
the regular precautions of having an emergency kit with food and
water, blankets and extra clothing in case something did happen
that we couldn't get into the house. And I also have routes
mapped out of how we would each come home from work for our
sitter and family. Do your best to prepare but don't let it run
All the suggestions given already are good ones. Iíd like to add
that itís a good idea to keep your emergency supplies outside
rather than inside- you may be able to get out of your house okay
but it may not be safe to re-enter it. I keep mine in 3 large
trash cans in the backyard away from the house, the lids secured
with bungee cords, and a weekís supply of enough water for me and
my pets in water jugs from the surplus store.
Inside the cans, although Iíve never had any problem with water
getting in, I keep everything in well-tied trash compactor bags
(the strongest bags you can buy). In one can I have the things
that I might need right away such as one change of clothes, first
aid supplies (I put them together myself as the ones you can buy
are very minimal), flashlight, a battery and hand crank powered
radio (Grundig), batteries for both separately from them, little
quickie food, a monthís supply of medications that I take
regularly, a list of phone numbers & info like for my home
insurance etc, an extra credit card that I donít usually use, and
$400. cash in small bills.
In the other cans I have more clothes, more batteries, more food,
a camping lantern, a small cook stove, blankets, rain gear, a
small tent, pet food, etc.
Several neighbors and I got earthquake gas shut-off valves
several years ago made by Vanguard (they were about $250.00
installed). Apparently some of the earlier valves made were
overly sensitive but these are just fine, and it gives extra
piece of mind.
I took a class from the City of Berkeley a few years ago in
Emergency First Aid- itís not only about care you can give
yourself, but how you can help triage injured people for care
from other people around and professionals. They have other
emergency preparedness classes also.
I also keep a small stash of emergency supplies such as change of
clothes, a jacket, a space blanket, quickie food, smaller first
aid kit, water, and cash, in my cars.
I had earthquake insurance for several years and then cancelled
it. The deductible was so high that it just didnít make sense. My
one-story, wood frame, retrofitted house would be most likely to
get a lot of broken glass and damage to possessions- less value
than my policy would have covered (I donít believe it covered
possessions anyway). I checked, and fire resulting from
earthquake is covered under my basic policy. This is from CSAA
Someone mentioned home inspectors for checking for structural
problems. Most home inspectors are general contractors, not
engineers, and look at basics but not structure in detail. For
that you need an engineering inspector. Two that I know are Dan
Szumski 839-0399, and Ralph Kratz 215-2430.
Oh yes, one more thing. Somewhere I read or heard that itís a
good idea to keep a large crowbar under your bed so that you can
move big obstacles if you need to in order to get out.
Not in Denial
Buying a House in Earthquake Country
I've been severely terrorized by the recent earthquakes in
light of the fact that the experts say 'the big one' is
coming. I've retrofitted my house to the max from top to
bottom (structural and belongings and furniture) but it is
not helping. I feel like I'm living in terror, since I'm
about three blocks from the actual Hayward fault.
I want to move because I've determined that I can't live
like this. I don't seem to possess the denial mechanism
necessary for living in a fault zone under the threat of an
overdue major devastating quake. But where to?
I've narrowed it down to staying in the Bay Area, since
around here, quakes are not felt as widely as they are in
the rest of the country (in the midwest and east, the rock
is older, and, according to the USGS, carries the shaking
orders of magnitude further - here, the rock is young and
shaking is relatively localized). So what towns are safest
in this regard?
I'm currently considering Pleasant Hill and Concord but have
no idea how close they are to faults. I can't afford
Lamorinda. I currently live in North Oakland and will need
to downsize financially if I move, since
selling/buying/moving is going to cost me a bundle.
Also: I will need to live in the new town temporarily in a
rental, until I sell my house. But I'm scared to death to
live in a rental that is not as retrofitted as my current
house is, even if the rental is much further from the fault.
Which is worse: retrofitted but three blocks from the fault,
or 10 miles from the fault and not highly retrofitted?
And any other suggestions on likely towns to move to but
still stay in the Bay Area? Terrified of Quakes
OK, take a deep breath. Before you sell your house, educate
yourself. There is a wealth of information on the USGS
website, as well as the ABAG site (association of bay area
governments). You can look at maps of local faults and even
find models of what's likely to occur - how far the shaking
will be felt, etc - when the big one occurs on a particular
fault (or if multiple faults go at once). Spend A LOT of
time reading on those two sites before you change your life
over this. Proximity to a fault line is important, but so
are a few other things... Retrofitting helps a lot. So does
living on flat ground. Look into what kind of soil your
house is on. Bedrock is better than sandy soil, which is
better than landfill. What kind of construction is your
house? The safest for earthquakes is single-story,
wood-frame construction, of which there is a lot in Oakland.
We also live very close to the Hayward fault, and when we
were planning our retrofit, we took a lot of comfort from
reading studies and stats about past major earthquakes. The
buildings that really suffer are multi-story or built on
hillsides. Apt buildings... Office buildings... Highways,
bridges, overpasses. Read up on this stuff. An apt building
10 miles from the fault could very well be worse than where
you are now. Slow down!
Have you considered a floating home? They are built on a
barge and move up and down throughout the day with the tide.
There are places to mour them as close as Alameda and they
can be very charming. If you haven't done so yet, I highly
recommend a trip to Sausalito to walk around on the docks
and get a sense of the homes. I've often thought that I'd
like to live on one, not just for their charm but also
because there is (I assume) less risk in a large quake. Of
course consulting with an architect/engineer to confirm the
sense of this would be advised as I am neither...
Don't like to shake either!
I would concentrate on getting a single story wood framed
house that is bolted the foundation. That is the safest.
Make sure you attach all your bookcases and other heavy
furniture to the wall. Don't hang anything above your bed.
--Bay Area Lover
Different places vary on how much they will shake during
earthquakes, and if the ground is in danger of liquifying.
(For example, much of Berkeley is in danger of
liquification, including the block where I work. Less than a
mile away at my house, I live in a tiny pocket that is not
in danger of liquification during an earthquake.) You can
check risks for different cities and neighborhoods using the
interactive maps on this page:
http://quake.abag.ca.gov/shaking/ and liquification:
http://quake.abag.ca.gov/liquefaction/ Choose an interactive
map, select a fault on the right (like north hayward or the
San Andreas) Then click on the map to successfully zoom in
on different neighborhoods. Andi
When my husband and I left Oakland, we moved from a house
1/4 mile from the Hayward fault, and there was a quake just
a few weeks before we moved, which only made us more certain
of our decision to move to Vallejo. Something that helped us
determine the location was the following link--maps and
information associated with the following site (Association
of Bay Area Governments Earthquake and hazards program):
You can study maps by city, county, or even type a specific
address into the search, and a map will be shown that
reveals fault lines, shaking hazards, etc. It is color-
coded, and very easy to zoom in, and determine the most
dangerous areas and the least. It also shows active fault
lines, and gives information about types of housing that are
most at risk, along with retrofit suggestions.
I hope you can look upon this research as a way to learn
interesting facts about the area, and find a place where you
can feel more comfortable. Good luck!
We're looking to buy a house and I'm getting confused about
earthquake risks. I'm trying to figure out how much more of
a significant risk landfill/liquefaction is over shaking
intensity. Looking at the ABAG shaking hazard maps, it
looks like most of Oakland/Berkeley/Alameda is pretty much
screwed for shaking intensity. We like Alameda but have
been avoiding the landfill areas for concern of
liquefaction. But then we'll get all excited about a house
in Oakland near the Hayward fault. Should we stick to our
guns and continue to avoid the landfill areas if seismic
safety is a concern for us? Or is pretty much the whole
East Bay screwed when the Hayward inevitably goes? This may
seem too unpredictable, but if the house falls down and
kills our family we don't want to feel like we knowingly
made a decision that contributed to that.
cautious (overly?) househunter
Our understanding of it is that most of the flatlands of the
east bay are in a middle category of risk. Land fill areas
are about 10 times worse (the equivalent of 1 point on the
richter scale) and areas over rock formations are 10 times
better. We live in the flats of Berkeley and have done the
appropriate sheer wall retrofitting, and I don't worry about
our house collapsing in the big one, though there will
surely be some damage. I would be less worried about
distance from the Hayward fault than about the seismic zone
the house is in, though being right on top of a fault might
be problematic. Unless a house is in a slide zone, it's not
so likely to collapse, and the worst hazards come from
within in the form of flying or falling objects, gas line
ruptures, etc. I'm not an engineer, but it's well worth the
expense to hire one to evaluate any house purchase.
We moved from NY in '05, and I am still NOT jiggy w/this
whole earthquake thing!?! We bought a crappy (construction-
wise) early 70's house with a gorgeous view (yes, ...stupid
suckers!), and after the fact, had a structural engineer
come to examine & draw up a set of plans that showed us: a)
what was actually 'under the skirts' of the house, and b)
what we needed to do to _correctly_ retrofit the house
(bolting, sheathing, nailing, etc.). At that point, we had a
set of plans that (retrofit) contractors could bid on,
apples-to-apples. Then we had one of them do it. Plus, we
are on an area we've been told (by someone who built their
own home next door) is on bedrock. I would suggest you NOT
do what we did: buy w/o first checking out the geology(!);
DO have someone qualified do an inspection; DO get a proper
retrofit done, by a retrofit specialist (not all contractors
know what to do, check their track record!) Then get CORE
III certified, and then hope for the best...
--should have looked before leaping
My husband and I dabbled in the home buying market last year but got spooked
by the thought of buying a home in earthquake country where the ''odds of a
deadly earthquake striking one of California's major seismic faults with a
magnitude of at least 6.7 within the next 30 years at more than 99 percent''.
(Sfgate, April 2008) I've heard that earthquake insurance is prohibitively
expensive. If we put 20% down (150,000) don't we run the risk of losing it all?
I know there are many financially-saavy, educated, reasonable people out there
and many own homes here...I'm curious how you determined this was a
grateful for your perspective, jen
This is some advice I heard when I first got here: buy
something with a good foundation and spend the money you
would have spent on earthquake insurance (for a couple
years) on earthquake retrofitting. There's a lot you can do
to make sure your house is better prepared, even though
nothing is a guarantee.
Shake it don't break it
We had the same thought when we moved here from North
Carolina. We took out earthquake insurance, which is
expensive and has a high deductible - but it made us feel a
little better about our choice. A few native Californian
friends told us that we were crazy - that no one even
bothers with that here. I don't know if that's true, but I
do know that earthquakes, fires, and mudslides (in SoCal)
are just the downside of living in such a beautiful and
naturally vibrant area. Every area has downsides, and
you'll get through them one way or another.
We've since had an earthquake retrofit done to the house and
we cancelled the insurance.
Don't make that a reason not to buy here - just make sure
earthquake soundness is part of your inspection before you
buy - so you know what kind of retrofit you might need to do
if you feel it necessary.
I'm a structural engineer who owns a home in the Bay Area, and I'll be the
first to admit that part of doing so, even for a ''financially-saavy, educated,
reasonable'' person, is denial. That said, there are some points to considered.
Maybe the biggest concern in the engineering community is damage to our
water supply from the Delta (old dams), and the ensuing problems following
a quake. Light-wood frame structures, which almost all homes are, suffer
the least damage of all building types. The strongest considerations are 1)
any old brick chimney that's not reinforced and attached to the house is a
life-safety hazard, and could cause some structural damage; 2) soft soil (flat
areas) could experience exaggerated shaking, as compared with rock (hilly
sites) - of course that increases expenses as hills equal views; 3) I would
steer very clear of any landfill areas, like much of Alameda and some of
Oakland and the Marina District in SF; 4) older foundations were
unreinforced without attachment to the home, risking the house sliding off
the foundation completely, which would likely mean total structural loss. If
you were able to satisfy each of these considerations, you could rest
comfortably in your new home, in my opinion.
A magnitude 6.5 quake hit California just 2 weeks ago, on
January 9. No one was killed, there were no major injuries,
and only a handful of houses were badly damaged. Most of the
damage was broken glass and things that got knocked off
shelves. Luckily it hit in an area that's not too densely
populated (near Eureka), but you get the idea. The 6.9 Loma
Prieta Quake in 1989 (which I experienced) did a lot of
damage, but much of it was to buildings with a specific type
of construction: unreinforced masonry or soft-story
construction, especially on landfill. Homes with unbolted
foundations and no shearwalls were also more vulnerable.
California building codes were tightened after that quake,
and again after the 1994 quake in LA. Will those building
codes protect us in the event of a massive quake? Well, when
it comes to an 8.0 we're ALL playing roulette. But if you do
your homework about construction types, retrofitting, and
liquefaction zones before you buy a home, then that 6.9 will
scare the daylights out of you, and may do some damage, but
your investment will probably be safe. At least building
codes in CA reflect the likelihood of quakes -- you're
probably safer here than in Seattle, which has a similar
likelihood of a major quake but much more vulnerable
buildings and infrastructure.
And of course, you'll want to keep seismic safety in mind
when renting, too -- who cares if their money is safe when
their family isn't?
There have been major earthquakes in the past and not all
of the houses fell down. If a house is properly designed
or retrofitted it shouldn't collapse even if in a very
strong earthquake. I'm not an engineer but I have engineer
friends who own houses along the Hayward quake; apparently
they aren't worried! Just make sure you don't buy in an
area that was filled in (formerly part of the bay) or
otherwise on unstable mud/sand that will liquefy, and have
a structural engineer inspect your house before you buy
My perspective is that if you own your home you have the
ability to earthquake-proof it really well, whereas as a
renter you have no control over the sturdiness of the house
or apartment building.
We have recently realized how little we know about seismic
hazards. Has anyone found a good book or other resource that
explains what to consider when looking at potential houses,
schools or daycares? We are concerned about buildings'
locations relative to fault lines and other seismic hazards as
well as their structural integrity. For example, how risky is
it to move into a house or send our kids to a daycare located
right on a fault line or in a liquefaction area? Are older, two-
story homes in any way less safe than one-story homes?
Our ''dream house'' would be a two-story Victorian or craftsman,
but someone told us that shaking on a second floor is
exponentially worse than shaking on a home's first floor. We
would really like to find a good source of information to answer
these and other questions that may arise as we think about where
we want to live in the Bay Area.
Thanks for your suggestions!
Nolo press has a great book called ''How to buy a house in California''
that we relied on heavily when buying our home.
We are thinking about buying a house that is located on
top of a fault trace. Does anyone know what that means,
exactly? How bad is it? Someone told us that it could
actually be better to be located right on a fault line,
because the worst shaking may occur further away. Is
there any truth to that? Also, this property has a creek
running through it and seems to have a rather high water
table (a neighbor told us that she hits water when she
digs in her yard). Could the amount of water in the earth
make it particularly unstable in an earthquake? Is there
a reliable, free source of information about these kinds
of things (a government engineer or someone like that)
whom we could contact? Thanks!
From my friend at the USGS - There are active fault traces
and inactive fault traces. If the question is about an
active trace (part of the Hayward fault zone)....Yikes!
The best situation is to be on stable material (bedrock or
old alluvium) as far from the fault as possible. The water
question is not an idle one, because an elevated water
table is often related to the presence of a fault.
However, there are lots of fault traces that are not
currently active. The best website to find out about
predicted shaking is the Association of Bay Area
Governments' ''On Shaky Ground'' site,
They also have a lot of other natural hazard info there.
That's the place to start.
To find out where a known active
fault is, consult the California Geological Survey. Their
site is http://www.consrv.ca.gov/cgs.
If the person wants
site-specific information, they will have to hire a
consulting geologist or geological engineer (He thinks this
costs a few hundred dollars). Hope that helps.
This is short, but without knowing this
person's situation, the following gives a some idea of
potential problems with living on or close to a
If the house actually straddles the trace of a major
fault this is a bad situation that should be avoided.
If the home is close (ie.within about 1/8 mile) to
the trace this is a little better. However, for very
large faults with lots of slip over time (ie. San
Andreas fault which has had displacements of hundreds
of kilometers) the "damage zone" can be quite large.
This is a zone of crushed rock and defines the fault
zone, not just a vertical crack that most people
envision the fault to look like. This crushed zone
(fault gouge) causes water to accumulate (sag
ponds...., San Andreas lake is a good example) and
also causes streams to pop up and hence raises the
local water table. Saturated crushed rock under
strong shaking conditions can result in complete
ground failure (liquifaction), not to mention
amplifying the ground motion and hence stronger
shaking of any structures. With that said, this must
all be caveated with some questions, "what kind of
rock or soil is the home built on?" , "what fault is
the home built next to?", "what is the structural
integrity of the home?" etc. If it is a small fault
with little past displacement it is probably not that
bad of a situation. Some homes in the Berkeley hills
very close to the Hayward fault are actually on fairly
competent soil and rock. If the earthquake does not
rupture up to the surface, then the shaking near the
fault may be comparable to shaking in the flatter
parts of Berkeley that are located farther away.
However, if the fault does rupture up to the surface
this is a very bad situation because this creates much
stronger ground shaking right near the fault trace.
(as an aside, some of the larger more recent
earthquakes in California have failed to rupture up to
the surface e.g. Loma Prieta, Northridge).
In summary, it is best to have a home located on stiff
soil or rock that is made of wood framing (flexible)
that has been seismically retrofitted to prevent
cripple wall failure with a good foundation. If the
home really does sit on the mapped trace of the
Hayward fault for example I would avoid it.
One resource to consider is the California Division of
Mines and Geology. I believe they have on-line
shaking maps for different earthquake faulting
We are looking at buying a house in the southern part of El
Cerrito and was advised by our agent to look into
the ''stability'' of the land upon which houses ar located. We
have seen houses we like on Seaview drive but understand that
this is in an area called ''Blake Mont Slide'' and that the
ground might be less stable here than elsewhere.
Is this correct? Does anybody have some updated
information/facts on this? The earthquake related maps on the
Web does not address the issue of land-slide. As much as we
would enjoy having a spectacular view, we wouldn't want waking
up one morning finding ourselves at the bottom of the hill or
Any insight is greatly appreciated!
Hi - When we were looking for a house in the Kensington/El
Cerrito area, our realtor strongly advised us against
buying any house in the Blakemont slide area. I don't know
if Seaview is part of the area, however. I know the slide
area includes some streets around the cemetery (below
Sunset and above Colusa, I think), but I'm not sure which
ones. My impression is that the more experienced realtors
know where the slide area begins/ends -- you could also
call the city of El Cerrito and the town of Kensington and
probably find someone who knows. Good luck.
We live on Sea View Drive outside the Blakemont slide area.
I'm no expert, but I drive through the area daily and have
some observations. When we bought our house in 1994, our
agent showed us a slide map of the area, so you may want to
ask about this map. The slide area is unstable to the point
of breaking water lines (EBMUD repair crews are a fixture in
the area). During winter, many residents drain their gutters
to the street to try to keep water from soaking the soil any
more. Most notably, about 1-2 years ago, many of the
residents in the slide area were discussing the idea of a
tax assessment district to raise money to improve drainage.
You should find out about this tax (did it pass? how much is
it?). There are a number of documents, including the study
prepared for the tax proposal, on the overall situation and
your Realtor should be able to provide them to you. Finally,
you might want to talk to some of the people living on
Eureka between Sea View and Franciscan Way and see what they
have to say.
Sorry for the late reply-but if you are still interested in
buying a house on the slide area, you should really call
and talk to my husband, Bill Langbehn. He is a
geotechnical engineer, who has extensive knowledge of this
area. He has done several studies of existing properties
in and around the Blakemont slide. He is full of
information and advice. He does do real estate inspections,
too. You should give him a call and just ask his advice.
His office number is 510-558-8028 (in El Cerrito).
The Kensington Library has a thick file with maps and
information on the various homeowner efforts regarding the
Blakemont Slide. It's in the slideing file drawers of local
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