Earthquake Preparedness

Earthquake Preparedness
Thank you for visiting our Earthquake Preparedness page! Here are some tips to help you survive our next large quake.  There are links to several documents at the bottom of this page that are geared for the staff of Sylmar Charter High School.  Please view our slide show, 1971 Sylmar Earthquake to see the damage from that quake.  We also have other documents that will help you prepare. 

When you feel an earthquake, duck under a desk or sturdy table. Stay away from windows, bookcases, file cabinets, heavy mirrors, hanging plants, and other heavy objects that could fall. Watch out for falling plaster and ceiling tiles. Stay undercover until the shaking stops and hold onto your cover. If it moves, move with it. Here are some additional tips for specific locations:

If you are in a HIGH-RISE BUILDING, and not near a desk or table, move against an interior wall and protect your head with your arms. Do not use the elevators. Do not be surprised if the alarm or sprinkler systems come on. Stay indoors.  Glass windows can dislodge during the quake and sail for hundreds of feet.  

If you're OUTDOORS, move to a clear area away from trees, signs, buildings, electrical wires and poles.  

If you're on a SIDEWALK NEAR BUILDINGS, duck inside the building to protect yourself from falling bricks, glass, plaster, and other debris.  

If you're DRIVING, pull over to the side of the road and stop. Avoid overpasses, power lines, and other hazards. Stay inside the vehicle until the shaking is over.  

If you're in a CROWDED STORE OR OTHER PUBLIC PLACE, do not rush for exits. Move away from display shelves containing objects that could fall.   

If you're in a WHEELCHAIR, stay in it. Move to cover, if possible, lock your wheels, and protect your head with your arms.  

If you're in the KITCHEN, move away from the refrigerator, stove, and overhead cupboards. (Take time NOW to anchor appliances, and install security latches on cupboard doors to reduce hazards.)  

If you're in a STADIUM OR THEATER, stay in your seat and protect your head with your arms. Do not try to leave until the shaking is over then leave in a calm, orderly manner. Avoid rushing toward exits.  

Be prepared for aftershocks, and plan where you will take cover when they occur.   Check for injuries. Give first aid, as necessary.   Remain calm and reassure others.  Avoid broken glass.   Check for fire. Take appropriate actions and precautions.  Check gas, water and electric lines. If damaged, shut off service. If gas is leaking, don't use matches, flashlights, appliances or electric switches. Open windows, leave building and report to gas company.  Replace all telephone receivers and use for emergency calls only.  Tune to the emergency broadcast station on radio or television. Listen for emergency bulletins.   Stay out of damaged buildings.  


Create a Family Earthquake Plan.  Know the safe spot in each room, (under sturdy tables, desks, or against inside walls).  Know the danger spots, (windows, mirrors, hanging objects, masonry fireplaces and tall furniture).  Conduct practice drills. Physically place yourself and your children in safe locations.  Learn first aid and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) from your local Red Cross or other community organization.  Decide where your family will reunite, if separated.  Keep a list of emergency phone numbers.  Choose an out-of-state friend or relative whom family members can call after the quake to get information about your family.  Develop a portable/auto survival kit for work and travel.

Learn how to shut off gas, water, and electricity in case the lines are damaged.  Check chimneys, roofs and wall foundations for stability. Note: If your home was built before 1935, make sure your house is bolted to its foundation. If your home is on a raised foundation, make sure the cripple walls have been made into shear walls. Call a licensed contractor if you have any questions.  Secure Heavy Furnishings.  Secure water heater and appliances that could move enough to rupture utility lines.  Keep breakable and heavy objects on lower shelves. Put latches on cabinet doors to keep them closed during shaking.  Keep flammable or hazardous liquids such as paints, pest sprays or cleaning products in cabinets or secured on lower  shelves.   Maintain emergency food, water, medicine, first aid kit, tools and clothing. See the Earthquake Country Alliance info-graphic below for a detailed list of supplies.  

Suggest that local organizations (of which you are a member) undertake a specific preparedness program or acquire special training to be of assistance in the event of a damaging earthquake.  Participate in neighborhood earthquake preparedness programs.  Attend training for neighborhood residents in preparedness, first aid, fire suppression, damage assessment and search & rescue.  The Los Angeles Fire Department offers this training in their CERT Course. Develop self-help networks between families and neighborhood through a skills and resources bank, which includes a listing of tools, equipment, materials and neighborhood members who have special skills and resources to share.  Identify neighbors who have special needs or will require special assistance.   Have neighbors agree to hang a white flag (bedsheet) out after the quake if everyone and everything is OK.

First aid kits are vital following any emergency. They can also come in very handy on a day to day basis when someone is injured. To be useful, a first aid kit must be accessible and ready. Store the kit in a location that will be accessible following the turmoil of an earthquake.

Do not forget your cars! You also need a well-stocked first aid kit for each vehicle.  Supplies need to be rotated and kept fresh, especially in vehicles where heat can shorten the life of your first aid supplies. We recommend checking and updating all of your first aid supplies twice a year. A good time is when you change your clocks for daylight savings time. This is also the time to check your smoke detector batteries.  
Thank you for the wonderful graphic below! 

More Earthquake Preparedness information - The Earthquake Country Alliance has an wonderful guide called Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country. It is an excellent resource for Earthquake Preparedness! Please see the document below called Earthquake Preparedness. It contains extensive information on preparing for, and surviving an earthquake. Consider printing this guide and placing it in your family's emergency kit.
The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program is an all-risk, all-hazard training. This valuable course is designed to help you protect yourself, your family, your neighbors and your neighborhood in an emergency situation. The course is FREE and conducted by the Los Angeles Fire Department. Keep in mind that it may be days before emergency services can get to your location. You will need to help yourself, your family and your community through the disaster.
First Aid - Large earthquakes will cause many injuries. It may take several days for help to arrive. It is a good idea for people to be trained in First Aid and CPR.  The American Red Cross offers training on line and in teacher directed classes. The teacher directed classes cost about $100. The online classes are $25. This is money well spent if you save a life!  You can also look up first aid instructions at WebMD. Keep in mind, this will not be an option in a large earthquake.
Information about earthquakes - The USGS (United States Geological Survey) has an interactive map that will show you all of the earthquakes in the world. Warning: this could look a little frightening until you are used to seeing that we have earthquakes all of the time in California. Bookmark the map on your computer so that you can find the location and magnitude of the quakes you feel.
Earthquake Notification Service The USGS also has a service that will send you send you text messages or emails when there is a quake. You can set your preferences for notices based on geographic area, time of day and magnitude. For example, you might want to know about small quakes close to home, but only be interested in major quakes on the other side of the world. You might want to be notified of larger local quakes in the middle of the night, but not small ones. You can customize many different areas as well to cover all of your family and friends. It's fun! Give it a try.
Why do earthquakes happen? The USGS has an excellent resource that explains the causes of earthquakes.
If you would like to see the sort of damage our community sustained in a 6.5 magnitude earthquake, check out the PowerPoint from the 1971 Earthquake below.
Documentary about the 1971 Sylmar Earthquake - Watch this 27 minute film about the quake and rescue efforts.