Tips & Tricks

Must-Read for Southern Californians: 7 Tips for Surviving an Earthquake



Residents of Southern California have it easy in many regards: we’re privy to essentially one season, summer, that lasts the whole year, and while many other residents of the country suffered through the Polar Vortex this past winter, we played beach volleyball and sunbathed. But while we don’t have to contend with sub-zero or even sub-par weather, hurricanes and tornadoes included, we have had a fair amount of earthquakes in the last few months.

A quake of 4.4 magnitude struck Los Angeles at 6:25am on March 17, waking up all but those who sleep in underground bunkers, and a second quake of 5.1 magnitude struck near Los Angeles on March 28. Two not insignificant earthquakes in a short span of time have left many wondering if we’re in for a much larger earthquake, one that will snap California off from the rest of the country, rendering it its own floating nation that will one day fight a civil war over whether “hella” is an acceptable part of vocabulary.

This recent spate of earthquakes accounts for why I believed my boyfriend when he texted me from an Angels game on the night of April 1st (I know, I know): “Huge earthquake just hit the stadium! The game is postponed, we’re all ok but the scoreboard partially collapsed!”

Then there was the taping of Chelsea Lately that I recently attended, during which a recorded security message droned in a monotone voice: “In the unlikely event of an earthquake…” I missed the actual advice because the entire studio audience began laughing nervously as all eyes gravitated upwards towards the gigantic cameras and lights strung above our heads with what appeared to be dental floss.

So, in the spirit of service towards my fellow Southern Californians, I thought I’d take this opportunity to provide you with practical, real-life advice for how to survive an earthquake:

1. Avoid stairs

One of the last places you want to be in an earthquake is halfway up a flight of stairs, one leg off the ground as you’re about to take that next step. As soon as an earthquake hits you’ll be tumbling backwards, and if there are other people on the staircase, you’ll knock one another over like human dominoes. Elevators aren’t necessarily safe either so I would recommend avoiding all buildings with more than one floor.

2. Avoid holding anything heavier than two pounds

Ever dropped anything heavy on your foot? It doesn’t feel so great. If a major earthquake hits, you will not be able to maintain your grip on anything in your hands, so don’t that risk. Bowling balls, children, pumpkins: all of these objects would damage your feet if dropped on them and thus should not be picked up in the first place.

3. Avoid showers

You most definitely will not be able to avoid slipping and breaking something if you’re in the shower when an earthquake strikes. While the threat of a major earthquake is looming, I would recommend using sponge baths or hoses to maintain a decent level of hygiene.

4. Avoid knives and other eating utensils

If you’re about to chop a vegetable right as the ground starts shaking, you’ll likely get a slice of your finger along with that diced carrot. Granted, it’s probable that you’ll sustain injuries much worse than a chopped off finger, but why add insult to injury? Say no to real knives and forks (spoons are probably safe) and use plastic utensils instead.

5. Avoid unicycles, bikes and smart cars

The key to earthquake survival is to maximize balance and stability. I’m not sure why anyone would ride a unicycle in the first place, so someone riding a unicycle during an earthquake probably wouldn’t have lasted much longer anyways (survival of the fittest and all that). But as bikes and smart cars aren’t very sturdy either, these should also be avoided. A good rule of thumb is that if it can tipped over by drunk teenagers in San Francisco, it can be tipped over by an earthquake.

6. Avoid coffee and other hot liquids

Mugs of hot tea and coffee, never mind teakettles and coffee pots, will scald your skin as soon as the earth moves under your feet and the sky comes tumbling down. Better safe than sorry: don’t consume anything warmer than luke.

7. Avoid addictive TV shows

If you’re engrossed in the last 10 minutes of the first episode of Season 2 of House of Cards (I won’t give away any spoilers other than to say geez, Zoe, you’re an idiot) you will likely be so wrapped up in the show you won’t notice that an earthquake is taking place and thus won’t have time to get under a sturdy desk or table.

Which, by the way, is a good thing to do in the event of an earthquake.

By Kathleen Toohill

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