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Advice about Earthquake Safety

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Preparing for an Earthquake


Non-annoying way to secure kitchen cabinets?

Aug 2014

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.

BACKGROUND: 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'').

MY HOPE: 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 annoying! berkeley resident
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) http://www.amazon.com/Mc-37-Non-Magnetic-Touch-Latch-Black/dp/B001CK3QHQ/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1409162038&sr=8-2&keywords=touch+latch 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 you pull.'' 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. ccd
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. ShakenByEarthquakeToo

What do you secure with Earthquake straps?

March 2012

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 vases? Thanks! Jenny


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. dana
Good Question. 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 weight.

Here are a couple of fantastic resources: http://earthquake.matthewlspringer.com/ http://etcusa.net/the-earthquake-lady (this website also sells some industrial seismic anchoring products) L


BOOKCASES and other large casework: L-shaped metal bracket - hardware store - install by 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 plastic 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 likely, survive.

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. cocosar
Hi, 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. Firmly attached


Earthquake! keeping books from falling off shelves

Feb 2012

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 thought of:

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 do)

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. toddler mom


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 colors and are fairly inconspicuous once installed. (Installation does require a drill.)

Your idea for creating a ''lip'' also will work and is one of the possibilities 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 furniture straps and attach the shelves to wall studs with those. These hold more weight. 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 surface they're sitting on. You can do the same with plants.

For smaller breakable items (vases, etc.) and lamps (which can fall on you), get museum putty in the earthquake aisle, which creates a strong but temporary bond.

One very important thing to do is attach safety latches to your cabinets, especially in the kitchen, with all the breakables, sometimes overhead. You can also lay the dishes down, within the shelves, on the rubber matting so that they slide less and will be less likely to break even inside their safety-latched cabinet.

In the utility room and/or garage, put all toxic chemicals and cleansers on lower 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 each other. (Bleach and some household cleaners shouldn't mix and create a noxious gas...I forget now which ones they are.) Earthquake Freak


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. heidilee
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 . . .
Hi, When my kids were younger I had similar worries and I just packed the books in very, very tightly. Al
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. woodworker
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. R.K.

Family disaster plan with a middle schooler

Jan 2012

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 to home. Anonymous
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

Earthquake kit for baby

Nov 2011

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 breast fed? 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. prepared mom


Securing storage bin for earthquake supplies

March 2011

So, I am cringing that I still don't have my bin together for earthquake supplies, 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 do you keep it securely closed (yet easy to open for an emergency)? Please advise! This is getting ridiculous! anonymous


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 water damage. prepared, hopefully
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 shed. RK
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. oren

A good earthquake survival kit for the home?

May 2010

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? Thanks!


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. 510-540-6638 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. Anne
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. anon

Earthquake preparations at home

Jan 2010

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? Thanks!


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.): http://www.elcerritokensingtoncert.org/uploads/fds-all.pdf 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. anon
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) 893-2791. Reece
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 books. LR

Earthquake kit storage

Oct 2009

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. anon.


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 cans. reva
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. R.K.
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 in separate plastic containers - 1 for medical supplies, 1 for toilet paper, 1 for clothes, etc., and all is perfectly dry. Take care

Need suggestions for earthquake food supplies

Feb 2009

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. Andrea


General earthquake preparedness handbook: http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/2005/15/ If you're not into do-it-yourself kits: http://www.survivalsuppliers.com/ Prepared
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. prepared
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 need boiling water to rehydrate them, though- so you'll need supplies for that, too (camp stove or burner and fuel). elizabeth

Earthquake Kits

March 2007

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? Thanks - 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. Andi
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. Darren
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. Larry


How to prepare for an earthquake?

March 2007

Hi all: 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 provide. Earthquake-scared!


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 http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/2005/15/

Protecting Your Family From Earthquakes-The Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety (in English, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean) http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/2007/42/

List of Useful Web Sites That Supplement the Above Handbooks http://earthquake.usgs.gov/regional/nca/pdrlinks/ quakecrazy


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. Anon


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 electricity, etc. 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: http://www.sfgate.com/earthquakes/

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 LR


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 prepared
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 www.beprepared.com for some useful info and resources. --sfb
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. Andi

Earthquake preparedness service?

Dec 2006

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 are ... Looking for Help


http://beprepared.com/article.asp?ai=45 I think this would help! christine

Water storage for earthquake supplies

Oct 2005

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.


Containers Unlimited
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. Grandpa

Buying an earthquake emergency kit

Sept 2005

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. Susan


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. Elena
The Red Cross has emergency kits. They also have lots of other useful information. You can find them online. doctorsydney
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''!

What kind of container for earthquake supplies?

May 2005

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. Thanks, Rachel


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. R.K.

Earthquake-safe wall decor

March 2004

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? Beth


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! goldman
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 items.

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. Holly


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. sunsolsal
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. Anon


Earthquake Plan for nanny

Feb 2003

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. Thanks! Amy


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. Carolyn
We have implemented a ''disaster plan'' for our nanny in the event of an earthquake, natural disaster and let's hope not but a terrorist attack.

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! Stephanie


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. Natasha


Anxiety about Earthquakes


Recent quakes freaked me out - considering leaving

Oct 2011

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 I 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. scaredy cat


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 teen agers! 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! anxious


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. anon


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... Had enough
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? Claire
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: http://www.berkeleyside.com/2011/09/14/residents-learn-about-pge-pipelines-running-through-berkeley/
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 about that. Other ideas on how to prepare below. Use your anxiety to get moving!

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 house.

The City of Berkeley offers Emergency Preparedness Classes: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=3920 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 possibilities.

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 windows.

Have a contact person out of state that everyone in your family can call. The lines within the state are going to be really busy.

There are so many ways to prepare. Get a book or find a website. Read it. Take action. anon


Just had my first earthquake - scared out of my mind

Oct 2011

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 support groups? Thanks for your help. Shaky Momma


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: seismophobia. Janet
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. anon


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. Prepared Worrywort


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. Wendy


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 air/water laws).

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 go.

Out-of-town parents worried about earthquakes

May 2008

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 usually is. Does anyone else have a similar issue? CU


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 soon..... Cassandra


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 down. anon.


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... kevin
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: http://quake.abag.ca.gov/ http://earthquake.usgs.gov/learning/preparedness.php http://seismo.berkeley.edu/faq/ba_eq_0.html 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.


Moving to the Bay Area - worried about earthquakes

May 2003

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?)? thanks,
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 a renter)

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 kit...)

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.

Karen


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. Worry free
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 them out!

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 research). rkonoff


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 cities.

--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. Lori
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. Danielle
You don't say where you're moving from...do you live in an area where there are yearly hurricaines, tornados, debilitating snow storms?

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 event.

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. June


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 others.

Home prep http://www.preparenow.org/ba-eprep.html

United States Geological Survey--search by state or disaster type http://www.usgs.gov/

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! Amy N


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 earthquakes.

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 http://www.redcross.org/services/disaster/keepsafe/readyearth.html

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! earthquake veteran


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 your life. Pat
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


Best Bay Area city if afraid of earthquakes?

Nov 2011

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... Best! 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): http://gis3.abag.ca.gov/Website/Shaking-Maps/viewer.htm http://gis.abag.ca.gov/Website/shakingpotential/index.html

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! Naomi


Where are the East bay earthquake hazards?

March 2010

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. Chris
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

Is it really worth it to buy in earthquake country?

Jan 2010

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 worthwhile investment? 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. Rebecca S.
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. anon
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? Cali Girl


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 it. -anon homeowner
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. Cece

Evaluating earthquake hazards when looking for a house

December 2002

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! Kathryn


Nolo press has a great book called ''How to buy a house in California'' that we relied on heavily when buying our home. Jill

Buying a house on a fault trace

September 2002

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! K


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, http://www.abag.ca.gov/bayarea/eqmaps/eqmaps.html 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. Angie


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 "major" fault.

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 scenarios. -Kevin


Buying a house on the Blakemont Slide

August 2002

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 worse) Any insight is greatly appreciated! Per


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. Cathy
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. Jon
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). Kerri Langbehn
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 stuff.
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