The Great Southern California ShakeOut

My very first Los Angeles earthquake found me dozing on the living room couch on a lazy Sunday afternoon. When the shaking began, this Midwestern girl had no idea what I should be doing to protect myself. I sort of ran around in circles, screaming, "Oh my gawd! It's an earthquake!"

The shaking lasted about a minute and I quickly learned that it was only a baby earthquake. It was
nothing compared to the 1994 Northridge Earthquake and it certainly was not the mythical Big One that could cause all of Los Angeles to break off into the Pacific Ocean.

Fast forward ten years and I'm still not far off from running around the room wondering what to do. Sure I have a little disaster kit with some packaged food and I keep a case of water handy, but what would I really do if the Big One hit and my family had to survive on its own for a few days?

Thankfully, I can remedy my lack of preparedness by participating in the The Great Southern California Shake Out. The Shake Out is the largest earthquake drill in U.S. history and it's happening in 9 days! On November 13th at 10 a.m., millions of us from Southern California's eight counties will drop to the ground, take cover under a table or desk (not run in circles) and hold on, just like if it was the Big One.

Why should you register for the ShakeOut drill? Well, there are 4.8 million other Southern Californian's doing it. I'm sure you don't want to be the only lame-o you know not participating next week when the ShakeOut Drill goes down. Plus, do you remember images of people waiting to be rescued after Hurricane Katrina? Think about what would happen if things were SO bad here in LA that no one could get to you for a couple of days. What would happen to you? Would you know how to prepare for and survive what could potentially be an even bigger disaster than Katrina? Or would you be like me ten years ago and run around screaming?

My commitment to the ShakeOut was solidified last Thursday when I had the chance to chat with Mark Benthien from the Southern California Earthquake Center. Mark's a n
ative Californian who chased science dreams instead of Hollywood glamour. In fact, Mark was so into earthquakes that he even did his 10th grade science fair project on them. He was interested in what he could do to save lives and reduce economic losses due to earthquakes so he decided to become a seismologist and attended UCLA, majoring in geophysics.

But, while
working for a seismologist after the Northridge Quake, Mark started doing a lot of work out in the community, putting seismometers in people’s backyards. He found
he liked communicating with and educating people about earthquakes more than being a seismologist, and, thankfully for us, he's now one of the driving forces behind the ShakeOut.

One of the first questions I had for Mark concerned L.A.'s 18-35 demographic. Let's face it, my age group likes to think we're invincible. Plus a lot of us either didn't live in LA during a big earthquake or are too young to really remember what one is like.

Mark shared that this age group is a big concern of his so he's trying to get out information about the ShakeOut in new and exciting ways. The normal thing is to pass out fliers or provide a link to a website, but, fortunately for us, Mark's focusing on reaching out to new forms of social media such as YouTube videos explaining the ShakeOut, blogs, Twitter and Facebook. For example, check out this video from U.S. Geological Survey Chief Scientist, Dr. Lucy Jones:

Mark also told me that most earthquake victims are killed by objects that fall, like bookcases tipping over, or else by stuff that flies off walls and shelves. Really, you may want to re-think that picture of you and your honey that's hanging over your bed.

Want to test your knowledge about what sort of stuff needs to be pinned down in an Earthquake? You can play a fun, online game called Beat the Quake. Players have to secure stuff in a virtual living room before the earthquake comes and shakes everything loose.

I've heard before that bookcases should be bolted to walls but I also know that many of us house-poor renters have evil landlords who threaten to take away our security deposits if we drill any holes into the walls. Mark shared that they're trying to get the message out to landlords that tenants should be allowed to bolt bookcases without a penalty.

Mark says you should tell your landlord that, "It's better to have a tenant alive to pay the rent than to have somebody be killed." And then you could drop hints that lawsuits from your family members over not letting you bolt stuff to the walls could be a bad thing. Yeah, landlords don't like lawsuits.

Above all, the most important things for you to remember are that you need to Drop, Cover and Hold On. That means you:

1) Drop
to the ground before the earthquake drops you.
2) You take Cover under a sturdy table or desk, and then you
3) Hold On to it before the shaking stops.

Now that I know what to do, there will be NO running around in circles in my apartment and I'm bolting all my bookcases so nothing falls over and crushes me.

Yes, I am determined not be someone who runs around and screams when and if the Big One hits. I know you don't want to be either. SO, get prepared, register TODAY at and check out -- a great new site featuring compelling animation of what to do during earthquakes and other safety tips. If you need to know what do you do if, for example, the earthquake hits and you're stuck in traffic on the freeway or what to do if you're lounging at the beach when the quake hits, that's the site for you.

If you're an earthquake (or other disaster) survivor, please share your experiences in the comments. What do you do to get prepared for disasters like earthquakes? And let me know when you sign up! In fact, go sign up now! And even if you don't live in Southern California, it won't hurt you to check out some of the disaster preparedness resources. You never know when it could happen to you.


Anonymous said…
Awesome info -- I just ordered a disaster kit from Costco and was about to start looking for this type of info to prep the kids with!

your timing is impeccable!
Anonymous said…
Los Angelista,
Shake that boo-tay!
And I have no idea why I said that, lol.
Jameil said…
love it. if i lived there i would've signed up before i even read this completely! lol. i SO need to be one of those people coming from the south b/c i would've been just like you running in circles screaming lol. how do your boys react?

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