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Lessons From The Northridge Quake of 1994

Northridge Quake

Imagine this: Several million people shaken out of bed at 4:31AM by a rolling, jolting killer earthquake. 60 people died. $20 billion dollars to repair the damage. And we’re told that as Angelenos, we were lucky!

Our Children’s Safety Ambassador Pau Gasol has a message for everyone in LA:

The Northridge earthquake of 1994 registered 6.7 on the magnitude scale. That’s actually considered to be a modest to elevated level of earthquake, yet due to the unusual pulsing nature of the quake, it creates a significant amount of damage – collapsed bridges, buildings, fires, water and gas line breaks… not to mention the aftereffects of the quake – often not reported: Suicides increased fivefold. A significant outbreak of Valley Fever occurred, a respiratory infection contracted by inhaling fungal spores from dust clouds that followed the quake. For weeks, Los Angeles rolled in the aftermath, including hundreds of aftershocks – with two in the 6.0 range on the same day.

So, what did we learn?

Most importantly, buildings retrofitted or built to the new earthquake codes established after the 1971 San Fernando earthquake survived Northridge intact. We learned that within approximately 72 hours, the city had been completely inspected, and injuries, deaths, and missing were accounted for.

The next big one is long overdue. The southern end of the San Andreas fault has historically ripped every 150 years during the past two centuries. However, it’s last big event was in 1690. That’s more than 300 years ago – so doing even simple math leads us to believe it’s long overdue for a significant event.

As Angelenos, we have a responsibility to prepare ourselves and our families. Most of the MySafe:LA audience wasn’t born in 1994. So, what do we do?

Make a Plan.

Build a Kit (or buy one).


And understand the simple steps of: DROP, COVER, and HOLD ON.

We do this to ensure that our safety is the key metric for survival. By dropping in place, covering our heads, and holding on to the furniture, we increase our chances of avoiding injury or worse significantly.

MySafe:LA supports earthquake readiness via our QuakeSmart:LA initiative.

Check out our 2012 Great Shakeout Drill at an LA Elementary School:

If you’re interested in having MySafe:LA deliver a QuakeSmart:LA presentation to your school or homeowner’s association, please contact us.

We encourage every person in L.A. to check their personal and home safety this week, so the memories of Northridge are not repeated.


Earthquake Country

USGS Earthquake Programs

Southern California Earthquake Center

Dare to Prepare Earthquake Program

The Great California Shakeout

California Earthquake Authority


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