Anxiety about Earthquakes

Archived Q&A and Reviews



Recent quakes freaked me out - considering leaving

Oct 2011

I moved to the Bay Area in the late 1980s (in my early 20s) and was here for the Loma Prieta quake. I've stayed in the Bay Area despite my constant low-level fear of quakes. But this week's swarm of quakes on the Hayward fault is really freaking me out. Maybe it's because I now have kids, or because I live in the East Bay, or work in a tall office building. I've done all the appropriate preparedness (house foundation is fully retrofitted, I have earthquake kits at home, etc.) but I can't help thinking that maybe it's just really stupid for me to be subjecting myself and my family to this risk. So the question I have is whether anyone on this list has considered leaving the Bay Area because of this or who has left for this reason? Or if there is anyone else who is deliberating the same question right now I'd like to hear your views. scaredy cat

While the place you call home should be as worry-free as possible, it may not be possible to avoid the natural issues peculiar to the area of choice - the NW still has seismic issues and volcanic activity, the Midwest gets floods and big snow storms, the SE and Gulf Coast gets hurricanes, and the plains get tornadoes. Heck, even New England got hit with a hurricane this year. It may come down to finding a place where the risks are balanced against the joys of family, friends, work, and play. Then, when you have found that place, make preparations for the inevitable - making sure that your home is secure (strapping to the foundation,gas shut off valves, etc.) stowing emergency supplies and provisions. You will never avoid a disaster but you CAN be prepared and reduce the anxiety somewhat. Rolling with it in NoCal

I was here for the Loma Prieta quake and moved to the East Coast a few years later. I have to say that it was blissful to not worry about earthquakes, truly a huge relief for many years. Then 9/11 happened a mile away from me, and made my new chosen home just as much if not more anxiety-ridden. So every place comes with risks and they are sometimes totally unforeseeable-so that speaks to the ''every place has risks'' arguments you so often hear. HOWEVER, I still believe that your discomfort with the earthquake risks in the Bay Area is a valid thing to respond to. Just because there is no utopian risk-free place on this earth does not mean you should stay put.

I think it is particularly challenging this time around to push out the terrible suffering and damage seen from the Japan quake, among other recently severe ones, and not say to yourself, ''why on earth if I can avoid this suffering for me and especially my children, wouldn't I?'' Of course we have had many calm years here since the last major quake and could have many more, but we do know that the Hayward Fault is overdue for a major quake, and despite all the shoring up of our homes and emergency kits we can prepare, there is no controlling the infrastructures and potential dangers outside of our homes.

I think it's fair to weigh the dangers and/or how the anxiety is affecting you versus what you would be giving up by leaving the Bay Area. Unfortunately there are no perfect choices, but maybe it will help you to lay out serious pros and cons of making a major change. I feel like too often in the Bay Area, people tend to want to dismiss genuine concerns about the risk of a major earthquake. We can't control or predict earthquakes but we can decide how we want to deal with the possibility.

Although I have not thought of leaving the East Bay because of the Hayward Fault, I do take precautions (have an extensive earthquake kit at home - with tent, have a backpack with basic supplies in car, and have basic supplies at work, and have told kids where our meeting points are in neighborhood and in bigger city area if can't get to neighborhood.) Friends from out of town, and others we meet around the country, have asked how we can live here. I remind them that earthquakes happen around the country (New Madrid fault, EQs in New England and DC). I also remind them of tsunamis, volcanoes, hurricanes and tornadoes. If I lived in Tornado Alley, I might feel how you do now. So, given that risks are everywhere, the trick may be to figure out how to prepare as well as you can, and learn to relax about that which you cannot control. It is kind of like living with teen agers! Another East Bay Parent

We left the bay area for Portland, OR a few years ago--part of the reasoning was due to the ''100 year'' earthquake occurring within the next 30 years. During the 100 year anniversary of the Great Quake, there was so much focus on it. I couldn't help think about it constantly--what would I do if my kids were at school and I was in the city? Or on the bridge? Or in the bart tube beneath the bay?

I'm sure that I probably should have been in therapy for it. Every place has its risks, right? Earhtquakes could really happen anywhere. But the probability of a huge quake happening in the bay is a very good bet. Loma Prealta was 60 miles away, and look what it did. I can't image a huge quake *right* in the east bay. I plan on returning after the quake happens! anxious

It's interesting that 2 people wrote this week about anxiety due to earthquakes, and others wrote about emergency action in earthquakes...we're all in alert mode.

I go through anxiety for a while after earthquakes...Every rumble adn vibration panics me...then it wears off.

I've lived in the Bay Area for 32 years. I think we all hope the ''BIG ONE'' doesn't come any time soon and we're willing to live with the occasional smaller ones, but we live our daily lives, maybe in denial. Where would we go? There has been flooding all over the world, fires, other earthquakes, tornados...There is no place that is free of natural disasters.... So, we do our best...have an earthquake kit, be informed, maybe have a community plan set up. And hopefully in our lifetime we'll never have the story to tell about where we were when the big one hit. anon

Yes, I left the Bay Area in July primarily because I just didn't want to live in fear anymore. I lived in Downtown Oakland in a new, well-built building on the 7th floor, so I felt safe at home. The problem was everywhere else. I took BART in and out of SF, which meant I travelled the tunnel twice a day. I worked in an old building in the city, surrounded by huge windows on one side and a glass wall on the other side of my office. And my daughter spent her time at a nanny share in a very old house. And my husband worked 30 miles away. After the Japan earthquake and realizing that the only place missing a 9.0 quake in the ring of fire was the west coast of the U.S., I said, time to go. I'm in Denver now, experiencing my first snow storm as we speak, and I know that this kind of weather doesn't make me much safer...but, I don't know. I feel a little more secure. I really miss the Bay Area, though, and all it offers, from availability of fresh food to the family we left behind. Still a bit torn about the move, but after reading about these earthquakes, feeling a little more justified in having moved for now... Had enough

Hi there. Yes! My husband and I are thinking of leaving the area due to the earthquakes! We are both from the L.A. area and are no strangers to quakes. I've been waiting (literally) for ''The Big One'' for my whole life. Those past quakes shook my kids up pretty good and we are all nervous wrecks. My hubby and I have had to ask ourselves is it worth putting us all through this stress? We are renters and have no real ties here--both work from home as self-employed--so we are in the midst of coming together as a family in creating a pros and cons list of staying here. Granted, there is danger everywhere and we know that. We are not running from danger, per se. We are leaving an area that is prone to quakes, where a large quake WILL happen with devastating consequences. We are all quake phobic and would rather try our luck with an area with more predictable natural disasters (i.e. fires, floods, hurricanes) where there are warning systems set-up. I know, it probably sounds crazy to most folks but you have to do what's right for your own family, right? wingnuts running from shaky ground

As a Florida girl, I can completely relate to your fear of the big one hitting the Bay Area sooner than later! The truth of the matter is that no matter where you move, there will be some danger with mother nature! I came from hurricane paradise and yes, you do get warning about a hurricane coming... But have you ever experienced one? You feel like your house is going to rip apart, for hours and hours!!!

If you move to another area you will deal with either or a combination of: snow storms, hurricanes, floods, slides, sand storms or worst, tornadoes. I say, enjoy the gorgeous state of California and know that every other place in the country have their own issues... Minus the gorgeous weather and amazing green spaces! I'll take a shot of earthquake over a hurricane!!!

I have noticed a few questions regarding earthquakes and perhaps 2 of people wanting to move. I have grown up in California my whole life and love it, but have considered moving time and again due to high cost. Though other areas have other high risks to consider. The midwest has tornadoes, the east coast and south have hurricanes, flooding can occur in other areas of the US, Arizona has drought. So I am answering your question with a question - Where can you move that doesn't have some kind of risk factor to go with it? Claire

There are risks everywhere. Unfortunately earthquakes cannot be forecast, unlike some risks. Still in some ways living in the Bay Area is less risky for my family because we are able to live without a car. In many parts of the country we would have to drive everywhere. Statistically the risk of being hurt or killed in a car accident is significantly higher than being hurt or killed in an earthquake. It would be better if Berkeley was better prepared. If you have some extra energy to devote to it, why not encourage the local government to improve the seismic stability of buildings and the university to taking some responsibility for having basic supplies on hand for students (realistically most of them probably have nothing)? A bit rattled but trying to be rational

You'd have to leave the west coast entirely, couldn't live in Hawaii or Alaska, would need to make sure you weren't near a faultline in the midwest or on the east coast faultline (Washington DC) to completely avoid the possibility of an earthquake. I guess it depends on what regional emergency issues wouldn't freak you out. Floods? Hurricanes? Tornado? Fires? Mud/Landslides? Volcanos? Every area has some potential hazard.

I grew up with earthquakes as my reality. My 70 year old mother has been in 2 major Seattle earthquakes in her lifetime, and many small ones that maybe knock over an item or two. I've felt two larger than the ones this month when I lived in Seattle, but they were still insignificant. I'm not familiar with the entire earthquake history of the Bay Area, but the only ones I ever hear anyone talk about are the 1906 quake and the Loma-Prieta quake as the destructive ones in the area in the last 100+ years.

Earthquakes make me nervous too, especially now that I have a child. They are unpredictable and can be highly destructive, but they don't happen that often. If you don't already have some place that you want to move instead, then I would advise taking care of setting up an emergency contact out of state for checking in with family members, an emergency plan, an emergency kit, and knowing things how to shut off your gas if there is a leak instead, so you at least have that peace of mind. shaken but prepared

My husband and I were discussing this recently. We moved here from Indiana 4 years ago. Many people in Indiana share your anxiety over the earthquakes in California and say they would NEVER live here because of that. However, we can't fully understand what all the fuss is about.

But, this is where we are coming from:

When I moved to Indiana when I was 9, I was TERRIFIED of tornadoes. Every couple of weeks for a good half of the year you see tornado warnings, the sky turns black and purple, terrifyingly loud thunder and lightening cracks and rumbles the sky. Every time you are sure you will die. At least, I was for the first 2-3 years.

By the time I was a teenager, I was well over it. Why? If a tornado warning happens, you shouldn't leave your house. You don't want to be caught under a tree or in a car when the hail, lightning, rain, etc. strike. You can't get in your car and outrun it since you have no idea where it is and where it might go. If a tornado comes, it could tear your house down (and ours, like most in the area did NOT have basements). What can you do? Prepare. Get flashlights and blankets and go to a room in the house that doesn't have windows. And that's it. In nearly 20 years of living in Indiana and countless tornado warnings, I never ONCE experienced a tornado. They blew through rural areas and neighboring towns, but I was never in one. And, had I been, the likelihood of destruction or death would have been small. Even destructive ones were rarely fatal.

So, what is my takeaway? There's nothing you can do EVER in the event of a natural disaster except prepare. Period. Even when you think you can control it, you can't. If you live in the middle of a hurricane area, maybe you'll have trouble getting out in time because you get caught in traffic and all the gas stations run out of gas. Then what? You just can't run away from a disaster.

Maybe I'm in denial. I never experienced any major quakes. But I do know that they happen everywhere, even in Indiana. California is the safest place possible if one does happen (buildings are built to withstand them, codes are designed for safety in the event of an earthquake). I feel I am safer in California in an earthquake than anywhere else.

So, you have to make your own decisions, but I'll take the earthquake risk over snow, ice, rain, hail, tornadoes, floods, and hurricanes any day. Cali is better. No matter the risk.

With the recent quakes I am extremeley anxious about the PG gas pipelines running through our Berkeley residential areas and parks/schools. Other than being anxious, however, I don't know how to deal with the danger of them rupturing in a major quake. Could anyone with some knowledge of such matters give me some context or advice for the likely danger and what, if anything, can be done to prepare and advocate for greater safety and oversight? Thanks. FYI, This post from Berkeleyside has gas line maps/info:

Several questions about quakes this time. I think I will write one response.

About gas lines. The PG gas lines are probably a risk, but it seems they are more proactive since the San Bruno explosion. The gas lines in people's homes are probably a bigger risk. When a home is sold, water heaters must be tied down so that they don't fall over and break the gas line in a quake. The homes that haven't sold are probably a much bigger risk than the PG gas lines. I don't know what to do about that. Other ideas on how to prepare below. Use your anxiety to get moving!

Many people have mentioned getting an earthquake kit. I don't know what is in that kit, but even if there is water, you probably need more. Store water. Keep canned food in the house.

The City of Berkeley offers Emergency Preparedness Classes: maybe other cities do, too.

Have a neighborhood party. Get to know each other. Make plans.

Have an engineer look at your house and suggest retrofit possibilities.

How about tools to extract trapped people. And shoes by your bed in a protected location so that you can still walk around your house even if all the glass breaks out of your windows.

Have a contact person out of state that everyone in your family can call. The lines within the state are going to be really busy.

There are so many ways to prepare. Get a book or find a website. Read it. Take action. anon

Just had my first earthquake - scared out of my mind

Oct 2011

Hi. I am new to the East Bay and just experienced my first earthquakes this last month of my lifetime. I have to admit I was scared out of my mind and if I could would move away. I am prone to anxiety and this has really been troubling me. I have made my emergency kit bag but I can't help but feel a general sense of worry throughout the day. I know anything can happen anywhere but that doesn't seem to allay what I am feeling. I am wondering how other people handle this. Is there some way to feel more relaxed about this? Are their earthquake anxiety support groups? Thanks for your help. Shaky Momma

As a native Cali girl, it's just not a big deal, if you take precautions. Know how to turn off your gas main, usually a red handle outside. Have a stash of EQ supplies in the trunk of your car including some small bills of cash. Bolt appropriately big pieces of furniture to the wall. If you own a home make sure the foundation has been re-inforced(not too expensive to batten it down. ) shake, rattle and roll in Caligurl

I, too, have been feeling tremendous earthquake anxiety since the quakes. I've been thinking about trying to contact other people who feel this way and maybe getting together to talk about it - sort of a support group. If you're interested in this, feel free to get in touch with me. I live in Rockridge. (I have no training in groups, psych, etc. - I'm just a normal scaredy-cat.:) BTW, I even did some googling about this fear. Apparently there's actually a name for it: seismophobia. Janet

Every time we have an earthquake I go through a few weeks of anxiety. Every rumble and vibration makes me freeze in my tracks, waiting!!! But I've been here in the Bay Area for 32 years. You can do your best to prepare...Have an earthquake kit outside your house in a protected container, a kit in your car...But you can't possibily know where you'll be, where your kids, friends, pets, etc. will be, so you can only prepare so much and hope for the best.

Pick your disaster....floods, fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados...It seems something everwhere. anon

I grew up in CA and experienced my first quake as a 8yo while at school. It was a 7 something centered a few miles away so STRONG. The only kid in my class to cry was the biggest boy so while I wanted to wail, I didn't. I think I should have! For the next many many years, whenever a quake hit, I freaked. I wouldn't sleep for days. I remember being a 15 year old and staying awake night after night after night with all lights on in my room and reading and fearing every little house settling sound. So I know how you feel! But sometime int he past few years I relaxed (i'm almost 40). I don't know if it was having kids and needing to be strong for them or maybe it was simply explaining to my DD that her first quake was like the mountains jumping in a jump house and shaking us. I don't have a magic elixir for your fears but I send you a hug and was there once too. not so jumpy anymore

Many of us in the Bay Area experience nervousness/heightened awareness after quakes. As my kayaking coach used to say, ''It is OK to have butterflies - - just get them to fly in formation.'' Being prepared will make you feel better. Take a local CERT course. Get involved with emergency planning in your neighborhood or city -- it is good to know your neighbors. We have our earthquake gear in two sheds in our back yard and I carry emergency supplies all the time in my car in a big plastic tub. I put all my important documents and thumbdrives, extra keys, etc. in a plastic box that I can grab from my desk in an emergency.

There are a number of good sites to visit on preparedness. You can start with

I feel more prepared by training with the county in search and rescue, certifying in CPR and 1st Responder First Aid. Knowledge is a powerful thing. Also, work out a plan with your kids and have an out of state friend or relative for you and your kids to check in with. Remember that cell phones and land lines will probably be down or overwhelmed in a mass disaster. I also have a ham radio license so I have another form of communication. I am at the extreme end of preparedness, but it does make me feel better. Prepared Worrywort

I've lived in the Bay Area my whole life, and I have plenty of earthquake (and other) anxieties. I'm not sure if this method would work for you, but I have found it infinitely helpful to become very educated in the area of my anxiety. It is perhaps a little pragmatic, but understanding the ''real'' risk of such events (What are the chances of any given person dying in an earthquake?), is very useful. USGS's website is a great place to learn about earthquakes, how they happen, what kind of substrates are safest. Know the earthquake safety of your own house and workplace. Fear builds because of the unknown; knowing eases it.

Yes, there is a big one coming. No one knows when. Let me just say that i am an east coast girl, and I get what yor are thinking. I was, however, at BWI airport for the 5.9 in August. It was not so bad. Many people were terrified, and were running over me, and my open bags (I was at the scale trying to get my bags under the weight limit), and tripping INTO my bags running like mad cows trying to get outta the airport. I had no idea what it was, and to their defense, I suppose they thought it was a bomb. What we had here was a couple 4.0s. The 5.9 on the east coast, though geometrically larger,was not really that bad. It was that earthquake that set me a bit more at ease about living here. The mere idea that what I thought was an earthquake-free area, could have such a large earthquake meant that no place is safe. On top of that, the fact that only one wall, and the national cathedral's steeple took damage, made me feel a lot safer. Those things--in a non-earthquake building zone took a 5.9. In theory, things here ought to fare much better.

Yes, I still worry, and yes, I have a tent, water, food, blankets, and so on in a big plastic bench outside my home. I have a plan in place for me and the kids should a quake worth noticing happen. Yes, I still worry, but I do my research, and found a site that said the daily risk of an earthquake here was about the same as the daily risk of having a car accident. I still don't like driving under overpasses, but the life here is so wonderful for me and my kids. Back east, there was little art in schools, no theater, not many things like museums, and computer camps. I can go back east, where it's ''safe'' (but they still had a 5.9 earthquake--greater than any of the 4 that I have experienced here by leaps and bounds--or I can enjoy what is offered here, free of the running battle with tropical storms, flooding, and deadly heat waves.

Yes, I think about it a lot. I think about a friend's great gran who came here from Ireland, who experienced the great earthquake at the turn of the century. They whitewashed the chicken coop, and moved in there, because they were afraid that the house would come down around them. They did NOT, however, move away. They stayed.

So, my advice (because it works for me), not knowing any support groups, is to do your research. Look at the safety of both places. Look at crime, hurricanes, floods, heat waves etc., and see if it really IS more dangerous here. Be sure to add in quality of life, and then go be prepared. Wendy

There were several questions on the theme of earthquake fear: It's okay to be scared of earthquakes! It's a logical response. However, the fear should then spur you to act or react, to fight or flight. I want you to fight. This means earthquake kits, earthquake water, a wrench attached to your gas pipe. That means knowing your neighbors, block captains, and taking any CERT or NERT training your community offers, doing any seismic retrofitting you can afford.

I find the irregular occurrence of earthquakes far less frightening than the seasonal regular occurrence of tornadoes, flooding, or hurricanes (and I am scared of non- California stuff like open-carry laws or lax clean air/water laws).

But you can't escape nature. There are earthquakes even in Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia. Where are you going to go? Here, because Calif. is a known fault zone, there are building codes to protect you from earthquakes. Does St. Louis have that? You can't pick what you are afraid of, but you can pick your response. Be in charge of it. It's okay to be afraid, but do something to make you stronger to fight back! scared too, but staying right here

I know it's very scarey when the earth moves and you're not expecting it. I'm a Bay Area native, and all I can say is maybe we get used to it. In most other parts of the country, they have pretty dramatic weather, regularly. Thunder storms, tornados, heat waves, snow, blizzards, floods, and of course even more intense now with the climate change. Those people deal with 'acts of God' on a regular basis, and people die and are homeless and injured all the time. So I'm not sure where you'd go that is significantly less dangerous, since we have the world's best climate here (except it was a bit hot this year), and every now and then, a little tremble. Someday it'll be the Big One, but not every winter. Helps to know your neighbors and have supplies put aside. Prepare, then let go.

Out-of-town parents worried about earthquakes

May 2008

My brother lives in Chengdu and has thankfully has been unharmed in the earthquake. Now my parents, who live on the East Coast, are anxiously begging us to leave the bay area because they are terrified we will also be in a major quake. I can't deny the possibility of this, obviously, but we have a house, jobs and our life here. My mother is calling everyday and says she can't sleep because she is so worried about us. I've encouraged her to talk about this with friends or a professional. We have a disaster kit and have made what improvements we can to our house. Aside from that I can't see what we can do about geologic facts. I also think they are feeling out of control because they are in the process of moving near my other brother, which is generally as sisruptive and stressful as moving usually is. Does anyone else have a similar issue? CU

I would be terrified, too, if I thought that the result of an earthquake here would result in the amount of destruction that occurred to the buildings in Chengdu. But....earthquake design standards here in California are very, very, very high and the building codes are much, much, much more strictly enforced here than in Chengdu. In addition, we do not have the graft and shoddy workmanship that is common in many developing countries like China and we do not have any really old houses (100s of years). For these reasons, earthquakes in developed countries like the U.S. typically do not have the same amount of devastation nor the high loss of life that we see in Chengdu. Do a web search to compare the pictures of the destruction and the loss of life in developing vs. developed countries for earthquakes of the same magnitude and you'll see a big difference. Share your findings with your parents.

If you haven't done so already, hire an engineer to spend an hour or two looking over your house and foundation (and your soils if you live on a very steep slope) and make recommendations (most likely some foundation work). The typical wood houses we have in the Bay Area are very sturdy.

I am an architect with a construction background and a strong knowledge of construction methods and materials, so I know what I'm talking about. I hope your parents begin to sleep better soon..... Cassandra

My folks were like that after the Loma Prieta. My mom would call me every day and tell me I had to move because it was too dangerous. My husband finally took the phone from my hand and told my mom in no uncertain terms to stop tormenting me.

Fact is, we live in earthquake country. But the thing to tell your folks about next time they call is that we know we live in earthquake country and have very strict building codes because of that. Tell her everything you've done to protect your house, if that would make her feel better. Or simply reassure her that a huge cause of the horrible death toll in China is because of shoddy buildings, not because of the quake itself.

There is only so much any of us can do to protect against disaster. We do those things here, we help others when they need help. Talk to your folks about what works. Things will settle down. anon.

Beg them to stop driving their car, because statistically, that's how we're all most likely to die. Google ''cause of death, statistics'' and then forward them the link and ask them to get off your case. What's more likely? Dying in an earthquake, getting hit by lightning, or being eaten by a shark? You might be surprised to find out... kevin

The most important thing to do is to educate them on the PROFOUND differences in building codes in the US/California (every time there's an EQ, more is learned and it's incorporated into the building codes), and China (no building codes to speak of, no such thing as enforcement). This is the main reason that there's been such a disaster. In CA, we don't build w/ brick, which tends to fall apart, for example. In fact, you might also tell your inlaws how nervous some californians get in other parts of the US, where we still build w/ brick. Tell her that the biggest EQ in the US was in New Madrid, MO. And that an EQ in the east coast is not impossible, just less likely to have a big one. (actually they do have EQs there, just so small as to be unnoticeable). There are also profound differences in infrastructure between here and China. And profound differences in planning-both individuals and govt agencies. Honestly, I'd much rather deal w/ EQ risk here than hurricane risk in the southeast. Remind her that our most recent large EQ, the Loma Prieta in 1989 was magnitude 6.9. It killed 57 people. It was a huge disaster. That same EQ in China would have killed tens of thousands. Not to say that it couldn't get worse, since it's predicted that the max EQ here would be about 8.3 (though it could be bigger). Check out these sites, and get prepared: or just google ''bay area earthquake preparedness''

You could compile information on how disastrous the disasters in other regions have been (snow/ice, hurricanes--eg Andrew, Katrina), tornadoes, & flooding, for example. Some of these places getting hit more than once.) I don't think that she'd be consoled by understanding that statistically, but it's MUCH riskier to get in your car every day than it is to potentially get into an earthquake (which probably is lower likelihood than airplane accidents too). And yeah, she may need to talk to a professional.

Moving to the Bay Area - worried about earthquakes

May 2003

My family is moving to the East Bay in about a year and I can't help but be worried about earthquakes. I know that there are zones that are considered more of an earthquake risk than others. Does anyone have some words of wisdom for me on how to live in an area like San Francisco/East Bay where earthquakes are a part of life. Can anyone recommend areas that are considered more protected than others? How is day-to-day living effected (ie- Do people ''earthquake-proof'' their homes like they might childproof them?)? thanks,
shakin' in my boots

I'm from out of town too, and this is how I've dealt with these worries

1) bought a good earthquake insurance policy (available even if you're a renter)

2) earthquake-proof my house (e.g. buy kits to strap large pieces of furniture to the walls). In addition, keep a ''disaster preparedness'' type of kit around (food, water, space blankets, matches and candles, first aid kit...)

3) realize that everywhere you live, there's some disaster waiting to happen (hurricanes in the southeast, tornados in the midwest, plane crashes, car wrecks -- even earthquakes in all kinds of places where they weren't expected before). Since I've taken all reasonable precautions, I force myself to quit thinking about it. If God wants to call me home, he's going to do it, and there's nothing I can do about it. I'm a natural worrier, so this takes some effort, but I do work on it.


I don't worry about earthquakes. I have lived in the Bay Area my whole life (30 years) and there has been one really bad earthquake here. There's nothing you can do about it, really. Have your earthquake supplies handy and have your home retrofitted to sustain damage in a quake... But I doubt that anything can really prepare us for a really huge quake. I am not trying to be fatalistic, but earthquakes are definitely something we cannot control or predict (no matter what the seismologists say). I say let it go. Worry free

Hi, before I get too far into this message (it's bound to be long), I want to mention a great website for lots of preparedness ideas They have loads of links to preparedness sites, government departments, USGS maps of earthquake hazard areas, and other wonderful sites. Check them out!

I'm glad to hear you are thinking ahead about being PREPARED out here. I guess there are disasters to be prepared for anywhere-tornadoes, ice storms, blizzards, floods,...everyone should have basic preparedness stuff. But there are some EQ- specific things that help. You ask whether everyone does earthquake-proofing like childproofing here. The truth is, some of us do, but most still live in denial! There are lots of things you can do to improve your preparedness at home, such as securing tall furniture to walls (and tall doesn't just mean 6' tall - you wouldn't want a 4-foot bookcase full of books falling on a crawling baby!); keeping emergency supplies (foood, water, first aid, flashlight, blankets, etc.) in an easily-accessed place; being sure the water heater in your home is properly secured (one piece of plumbers tape across the front is NOT adequate); seeing to it that the house/building you live in has been retrofitted to resist EQ forces(if it is new, it should be built to current codes, but many older buildings have not been strengthened). Of course, this only helps in your own home. Compared to places like Algeria and rural Turkey, the SF area is extremely EQ-safe. Buildings are, on the whole, safer, and of course all new censtruction is built to strict codes. However, your child's friends' families might be in the ''denial'' category. So your child might end up sleeping over at someones house, right under a 7-foot tall full china cabinet that has not been secured in any way. Also, I have found it pays to ask your schools and daycare providers what they have done. Preparedness plans are required, but some are better thought-out and implemented than others. If anyone wants more suggestions, feel free to e-mail me (I do not represent myself as an ''expert'', but I have done lots of research). rkonoff

Well, of course we're all living in denial, and that's the only way to live here--because if you think about it all the time, you'll go insane.

But here are a few things to give you perspective and/or advice

--the closer you are to the water, generally, especially on flat ground, the worse off you are. This is because much of the land on the bay is really fill; on older maps, this ''land'' shows up as water. If your house is on sloping ground inland, you're probably on bedrock. You can also check out http// eqmaps/pickcity.html to find earthquake hazard maps for specific cities.

--generally, the newer your house is, the better, because earthquake codes have improved; but you have to take into consideration size and building materials. Therefore concrete apartment buildings with parking garages on the first floor (circa 1960s) are a bad bet compared to a Victorian single family house, because the former tend to ''pancake'' in a quake, while the latter will just dump a little gingerbread woodwork around your ears.

--if you're buying an older house, there are types of seismic reinforcement that can help a lot; namely, bolting your house to the foundation (older houses just sit on top of their foundations) and covering the cripple walls (i.e., portion of exterior walls between foundation and floor joists) with plywood, which adds shear strength and stability.

If I wanted maximum peace of mind, I would live in a single-story wood-frame house with no exterior masonry, either new or seismically reinforced, in a nice hilly place like Rockridge (that's rock under your feet!) or North Berkeley. And then I would chill out and enjoy the weather.

Not a geologist, but I play one on TV

You can check out for information about earthquakes, particularly there are maps of shaking intensities and likely damage. I was hesitant to tell you about those, because they look scary, particularly to someone who's not familiar with earthquakes. But they will give you an idea of what areas are more or less earthquake safe. Basically proximity to a fault line that's due for a quake and sitting on land fill are the two big issues. When we were house shopping, we avoided Alameda and other areas of land fill. We ended up buying a house in the El Cerrito hills, which is very close to an active fault, but is on solid ground (not true of much of the hills). As for day to day living, you can't let it bother you too much. People do prepare for earthquakes by storing food and other necessities and having an exit strategy from their homes. It's also important to bolt tall furniture to walls. There's a big industry for earthquake retrofit of houses and some cities will even give you a credit on your tax bill. It important to have the house bolted to the foundation and shear walls installed. These are not particularly expensive fixes. Lori

Yes you earthquake proof your house the way you child proof it. It might ease your mind to find out what you need to do to make your house earthquake safe. I'm sure you can find a website that gives ideas for earthquake safety. Also, if you are buying a house, you'll have it inspected and they'll tell you if there is anything you need to do structurally to make your house safe in an earthquake. If it makes you feel any better, I've lived here all my life and lived through lots of earthquakes including two very large ones, the loma prieta here in Oakland and the Northridge quake in Los Angeles. They can be very frightening but if you are not living in a hazardous environment, they are usually not harmful. You might also want to find out what you are supposed to do during an earthquake which I am sure you can find on a earthquake preparedness web site. It won't be so scary if you are prepared. Danielle

You don't say where you're moving you live in an area where there are yearly hurricaines, tornados, debilitating snow storms?

Yes, California is known as earthquake country and there have certainly been a few big ones in the last century (and even last few decades), but I think most of us live our lives without thinking about it much.

Many homes are earthquake retrofitted on the foundation, most people I know have an emergency stash outside the house of food, blankets, tools, etc. just in case. Some people have earthquake insurance. Schools have emergency earthquake procedures to follow, in case. We are educated in disaster procedure in the event.

I'm not a geologist but I do know that we have lots of teeny to small earthquakes all over the place and once in a while there is a biggy centered somewhere that causes damage in one area and maybe it's felt slightly in distant areas. There are faults all over the place, some bigger, some smaller. I don't know that any one area is ''safer'' than any other. Our house is 1 1/2 blocks from the Hayward Fault but our neighborhood is built on solid stone. Don't know if that makes any difference.

I imagine at some point the Bay ARea will have another disasterous earthquake (they say we will). It could be in 20 minutes, tomorrow,or not for many years.

My husband, born and raised in Berkeley, always says he'd much rather live here where there are occasional earthquakes than in the midwest where tornados are a way of life, or in the east where hurricaines are pretty much guaranteed every season. So, good luck on your move. California is beautiful, the whether is great(or is it weather?), good food,diversity, great people. You'll learn what safety precautions to take. Be sure you do that, then relax and enjoy. June

Here are some websites that might provide you a little more feeling of control during the transition to the Bay Area. There are natural disasters in all parts of the world that one should be prepared to face, depending upon where you live (I grew up with tornado shelters). Having a plan and rehearsing it, knowing your neighbors, and making your house and belongings as secure as possible are the measures you have control over. You might want to have a geological assessment of the land your prospective abode sits on, to determine which areas are most stable. A good realtor will also be able to provide you with stability information about certain areas over others.

Home prep

United States Geological Survey--search by state or disaster type

Neighborhood groups ask the police or fire department in your prospective neighborhood if there is an active Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) in that area.

Other good information (many categories) for the Bay Area can be found by searching on

Welcome to the area! Amy N

I have lived in the Bay Area my entire life (minus a few years abroad in my twenties), and been through at least 3 major quakes that I remember. There's lots of little ones that we just don't ever feel. I am WAY more afraid of tornadoes and hurricanes than earthquakes.

We live on a fault line, and have done some work on our house (bolted the foundation, etc). We also have an emergency stash of food and water, flashlights, etc. The Red Cross has great info on how to eathquake proof your place at

Friends I know that have also lived here since birth joked during the dot-com days that we needed a good earthquake to scare away the dot-commer's ) It's truly not a part of our everyday living-- it seems to happen way less than flooding, hurricanes, or tornadoes in other parts of the US (all are way more scarier for my family!).

Good luck with your move! earthquake veteran

I have lived in the Bay Area my whole life (34+ years) and the only ''real quake'' that I can remember causing any damage is the 1989 quake that caused the Cypress Structure to collapse and even then I didn't even lose power at my house. I only lost 1 trinket and that was because one fell on top of another that had fallen. A lot of others fared worse. I do use museum wax on collectibles and strap my furniture to studs and such but I guess living here I am not too worried about it. I also take the regular precautions of having an emergency kit with food and water, blankets and extra clothing in case something did happen that we couldn't get into the house. And I also have routes mapped out of how we would each come home from work for our sitter and family. Do your best to prepare but don't let it run your life. Pat

All the suggestions given already are good ones. I\x92d like to add that it\x92s a good idea to keep your emergency supplies outside rather than inside- you may be able to get out of your house okay but it may not be safe to re-enter it. I keep mine in 3 large trash cans in the backyard away from the house, the lids secured with bungee cords, and a week\x92s supply of enough water for me and my pets in water jugs from the surplus store.

Inside the cans, although I\x92ve never had any problem with water getting in, I keep everything in well-tied trash compactor bags (the strongest bags you can buy). In one can I have the things that I might need right away such as one change of clothes, first aid supplies (I put them together myself as the ones you can buy are very minimal), flashlight, a battery and hand crank powered radio (Grundig), batteries for both separately from them, little quickie food, a month\x92s supply of medications that I take regularly, a list of phone numbers & info like for my home insurance etc, an extra credit card that I don\x92t usually use, and $400. cash in small bills.

In the other cans I have more clothes, more batteries, more food, a camping lantern, a small cook stove, blankets, rain gear, a small tent, pet food, etc.

Several neighbors and I got earthquake gas shut-off valves several years ago made by Vanguard (they were about $250.00 installed). Apparently some of the earlier valves made were overly sensitive but these are just fine, and it gives extra piece of mind.

I took a class from the City of Berkeley a few years ago in Emergency First Aid- it\x92s not only about care you can give yourself, but how you can help triage injured people for care from other people around and professionals. They have other emergency preparedness classes also.

I also keep a small stash of emergency supplies such as change of clothes, a jacket, a space blanket, quickie food, smaller first aid kit, water, and cash, in my cars.

I had earthquake insurance for several years and then cancelled it. The deductible was so high that it just didn\x92t make sense. My one-story, wood frame, retrofitted house would be most likely to get a lot of broken glass and damage to possessions- less value than my policy would have covered (I don\x92t believe it covered possessions anyway). I checked, and fire resulting from earthquake is covered under my basic policy. This is from CSAA

Someone mentioned home inspectors for checking for structural problems. Most home inspectors are general contractors, not engineers, and look at basics but not structure in detail. For that you need an engineering inspector. Two that I know are Dan Szumski 839-0399, and Ralph Kratz 215-2430.

Oh yes, one more thing. Somewhere I read or heard that it\x92s a good idea to keep a large crowbar under your bed so that you can move big obstacles if you need to in order to get out.

Not in Denial