I’d like to take this time to make sure all the folks I care about are prepared for the coming apocalypse. If you’re reading this, I probably know you, and even if I don't I wouldn’t want you to die in a horrible manner. Usually here at Get Your Science On we're all about having fun, but today we’re gonna get you informed about what you can do in the event of an earthquake and/or natural disaster of a similar fashion. But first we'll inform ourselves with some history of earthquakes in the LA area.
Southern California hasn’t had a humongous earthquake in a while. The last major earthquake on the southern section of the San Andreas Fault was in 1857 and was a whopper with Mw of 7.9 (that’s Moment Magnitude [see “MAGNITUDES!” for a hilarious refresher]). Since Southern California wasn’t too populated at the time, damage was minimal and only a couple folks got killed in this earthquake. Next up was the 1906 San Francisco quake where the San Andreas Fault ruptured in Northern California and we all know the consequences of that quake. Major damage to the city of San Fran, loss of life, fires, carnage, the works. But the population of San Francisco was only 410,000 at the time. The population in Los Angeles County was almost 10 million in 2006 according to the census bureau. Yipes.
A recurrence interval is defined as the time that it should take between earthquakes on a fault. If the Earth's crust was clockwork, we could expect an earthquake flawlessly on time. But the Earth is fussy and mostly unpredictable. However, the recurrence interval at least gives us a heads up as to when we can start biting our nails over the possibility of The Big One. The southern part of the San Andreas Fault has a recurrence interval of about 150 years which means we should have a big quake right…about…NOW! Aww, don’t be scared. There are lots of things you can do to prepare yourself for an earthquake!
First of all, congratulate yourself on living in a city with some of the most stringent and thoroughly enforced building codes in the world. YAY! The Long Beach earthquake of 1933 scared the pants off the citizens of Los Angeles when several school houses crumbled because they were built out of unreinforced masonry. The earthquake struck around 6 pm so children weren’t in school, but if they had been it would have been a major, MAJOR loss of life. Ever since then, laws have required retrofitting of older buildings (brick, masonry) and ensured that newer buildings be designed with earthquake safety in mind. That’s not to say that buildings can’t or won’t crumble given sufficient shaking. Remember: Earthquakes don’t kill people, buildings kill people.
After Hurricane Katrina, I wanted to make sure I had enough supplies to last for a couple days in the event of a catastrophe in the Los Angeles area. I started with two big rubber tubs that you can buy at Target for under 10 bucks. Buy the lids too. I put water (5 gallons), canned food, A CAN OPENER (!), other long-lasting food items like ramen and soy milk (which you do want to replace after a year or so), eating utensils, a few sweatshirts (in lieu of blankets), extra shoes and socks, a flashlight, one of those dynamo-powered radios, batteries, first aid shit like gauze, band aids, disinfectant, ace bandages, and I think some cash. Unless I “borrowed” that cash for booze. Anyways, you get the point. Above all else GET WATER! Don't plan on relying on a Brita filter either, spend the $4 and buy yourself a couple jugs of drinking water. The rule of thumb is you’ll want about a gallon for everyday use until utilities can be restored.
There are lots of good resources on the web about how to make yourself a survival kit, just Google it! But don’t feel like you have to run out and buy some fancy premade kit. Use your common sense and you’ll do alright.