MacGyver Didn’t Prepare me for an Earthquake

I think of myself as a pretty resourceful guy, and handy with duct tape and a pair pliers. When a deer charged my car and knocked my rearview mirror off a few months ago, I was able to fix it myself just fine. But as a new resident of the state of California, I’m starting to realize that I am not really ready to deal with EVERY problem.  A large earthquake is going to hit California in the near future,  a fact confirmed recently by scientists and researchers. So how should I react when it happens?

The Earthquake Flowchart I made

The Earthquake Flowchart I made

This is the question I asked myself last week, to which I had no definitive answer. Unlike many other dangerous situations, watching episodes of MacGyver had not prepared me for an earthquake. Therefore, I decided to search the net for earthquake safety tips. I have distilled my findings into the following blog post. 

What’s My Risk?

A large earthquake is going to hit California soon. The question is not if, but when. Here are some probabilities to help evaluate your risk (data from

California Earthquake Probability Map (source:

  • 99.7% chance of magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquake during the next 30 years
  • 46% chance of magnitude 7.5 or larger earthquake during the next 30 years
  • 2% chance of a magnitude 7.5 or larger each year

What to expect?

How large is a magnitude 6.7 earthquake?
There is likely to be a moderate amount of damage. To compare within California’s history:

  • Northridge Los Angeles Earthquake,  Magnitude 6.7, injures ~9000 (source)
  • Loma Prieta Earthquake, Magnitude 6.9, injures ~4000 (source)

How long do they last?
The initial shaking will typically last from 10 – 30 seconds. Power may go out, and fire alarms may sound. Aftershocks can occur in the hours, days, weeks, or months following an earthquake.

How should I react?

FEMA has a long list of instructions in this helpful PDF, but I have whittled down a flowchart which I feel is easier to visualize and remember. Most of the information was compiled from the site, but I supplemented it with this and this.

Earthquake Flowchart (PDF)

How can I prepare?

If you are interested in being more prepared, knowing how to react (above) is definitely a good start. Here are some more links with good information on preparedness:

  • A few weeks ago, Emily had posted some good information about soft-story buildings.
  • You can participate in the Great California Shakeout (
  • FEMA runs the site which has this helpful PDF, and I have picked out a few of the following points they recommend:
    1. Fasten shelves securely to walls.
    2. Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves.
    3. Store breakable items such as bottled foods, glass, and china in low, closed cabinets with latches.
    4. Fasten heavy items such as pictures and mirrors securely to walls and away from beds, couches and anywhere people sit.
    5. Store weed killers, pesticides, and flammable products securely in closed cabinets with latches and on bottom shelves.
    6. Locate safe spots in each room under a sturdy table or against an inside wall.

One of our readers (j.bradbury) also pointed out some great general preparedness tips:

I hope you found this useful. Leave a comment if you think I have left something out, or if you have more earthquake tips!

Chris Kuryak, Chief Operating Officer of Recovers


2 thoughts on “MacGyver Didn’t Prepare me for an Earthquake

    • Excellent information J. I have added it to the post.

      I checked out your site as well (, looks to be lot of good preparedness information there. Good luck in your local effort, and thanks for the great comment.

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