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Preparing for Earthquake

Updated on August 24, 2014

My First Earthquake Experience

About a dozen years ago, I was living in a high-rise building in a major metropolitan city. It was an average summer afternoon, and I was playing cards with a friend in the living room. MTV was on in the background and my parents were discussing something in the kitchen. My grandfather was also in the living room watching the card game, and wanting to be asked to play.

Now I'll tell you that in all my years living in this city, there had never been an earthquake or a tremor. The closest natural disaster was a disintegrating tropical storm which dumped a ton of rain and above average winds on us.

It was unglamorous: the 30 story building started to sway gently. At first, I thought that I was just off-balance. Maybe I'd been sitting too long and when I got up, the blood just rushed to my head, right? Or maybe my mind was playing tricks on me because high-rise buildings do not normally sway. And then the swaying was more prominent. Books fell off the bookshelves, glasses stirred, and you could hear general disruptions next door and outside.

My grandfather, having seen another earthquake 25 years later, should have been the calmest, but instead was busy declaring that this was the end of the world. My parents ran into a corner of the living room where I joined them, not entirely sure of whether I was being rocked to bed or if the building would snap off its foundation. And then it was over. It was maybe 10 seconds of numbing fear.

Earthquake Areas

Early this morning there was news of a 6.0 magnitude earthquake in California. The area affected was the northern San Francisco bay area about 10 miles northwest of American Canyon and 6 miles southwest of Napa, CA.

From the Huffington Post, "It was a rolling quake, said Oakland resident Rich Lieberman. "It started very much like a rolling sensation and just got progressively worse in terms of length. Not so much in terms of shaking, but it did shake. It felt like a side-to-side kind of rolling sensation. Nothing violent but extremely lengthy and extremely active."

So, all in all, a thoroughly scary but not dangerous earthquake, right? The thing about natural disasters, earthquakes included, is that there's no way to know when they're coming and how disruptive they're going to be. Seeing as the earth did this long before humans came along, it's not as if the tectonic plates are considering that they might topple the latest high-rise building or oxygen bar.

Thankfully for most people, we have a general idea of whether we live in an "earthquake area" or not. The places we think of that have earthquakes often are California or Japan, not Raleigh or Tampa Bay. But that doesn't mean that another city is impervious from a dangerous earthquake like we've seen in other parts of the world recently.

For that reason, I'm taking a moment to prepare for the unexpected.

My Second Earthquake

A handful of years ago, I was working in an office in San Francisco. I was fortunate, maybe unfortunate, enough to have found an ultra-expensive flat a few blocks from my workplace. The office building was only 7 or 8 floors high with a retail space on the first floor. And the afternoon of the earthquake, I was just working at my desk with 20 others. Now, while this was only my second earthquake, you have to remember that the people I'm working with have had countless experience living with the ground shaking.

We were on the third floor, and the ground started to shake, not violently but as if a large crane was rolling by the nearest window. A couple guys yelled out, "Are they doing construction again? I thought they were done!" and the ground shaking continued for another 6 or 7 seconds. My director then stood up and said, "Guys, it's an earthquake, walk down the stairs and get out of the building". To which we ran down the stairs and outside, and saw hundreds of others joining us on the street.

Living only blocks away, I thought of everything dear to me and ran home without stopping. I couldn't tell if the ground was still shaking or not because I just wanted to get home and make sure everything was okay. I scaled three levels of stairs, opened the door, and BOOM...nothing. The kitchen had some dust which had fallen from the ceiling, and the laundry room looked as if I'd run the dryer for too long. But that was it, I survived my second earthquake.

Earthquake Tips

Earthquake Tips
Earthquake Tips | Source

How strong was it?

As you've probably heard, earthquakes are measuring on the Richter scale. Here's some general guidelines courtesy of Wiki:

Less than 2.0 - Microearthquakes, not felt, or felt rarely by sensitive people.

2.0-2.9 - Felt slightly by some people. No damage to buildings.

3.0-3.9 - Often felt by people, but very rarely causes damage. Shaking of indoor objects can be noticeable.

4.0-4.9 - Noticeable shaking of indoor objects and rattling noises. Felt by most people in the affected area. Slightly felt outside. Generally causes none to minimal damage. Moderate to significant damage very unlikely. Some objects may fall off shelves or be knocked over.

5.0-5.9 - Can cause damage of varying severity to poorly constructed buildings. At most, none to slight damage to all other buildings. Felt by everyone. Casualties range from none to a few.

6.0-6.9 - Damage to a moderate number of well-built structures in populated areas. Earthquake-resistant structures survive with slight to moderate damage. Poorly designed structures receive moderate to severe damage. Felt in wider areas; up to hundreds of miles/kilometers from the epicenter. Strong to violent shaking in epicentral area. Death toll ranges from none to 25,000.

7.0-7.9 - Causes damage to most buildings, some to partially or completely collapse or receive severe damage. Well-designed structures are likely to receive damage. Felt across great distances with major damage mostly limited to 250 km from epicenter. Death toll ranges from none to 250,000.

8.0-8.9 - Major damage to buildings, structures likely to be destroyed. Will cause moderate to heavy damage to sturdy or earthquake-resistant buildings. Damaging in large areas. Felt in extremely large regions. Death toll ranges from 1,000 to 1 million.

9.0+ - Near or at total destruction - severe damage or collapse to all buildings. Heavy damage and shaking extends to distant locations. Permanent changes in ground topography. Death toll usually over 50,000.

How many earthquakes have you experienced?

How many earthquakes have you experienced?

See results

Getting Prepared

Now that you can't get the idea of the 9 Richter scale earthquake out of your mind, let's get prepared:

  • Put together or purchase an emergency kit including flashlight, batteries, water purifier, food, bottled water, etc.
  • Establish a family communications plan so that you can quickly and efficiently make sure that your loved ones are okay
  • Have an earthquake drill after you read or hear about an earthquake. Your family members will be more receptive to a drill
  • Check your shelves. Are they fastened to the wall? Are heavy objects on lower levels?
  • Identify safe spots in each room under arches, near inside walls, or beneath large tables.

Richter Scale Readings

Richter Scale Readings
Richter Scale Readings | Source

About DealForALiving

I believe that being frugal and making smart money choices is like any other exercise. As we continue to practice good habits in saving money where possible, finding deals for what we want, and having a good time at it, then we become better at dealing for a living.

I'm committed to sharing my experiences with getting the most out of using credit cards, saving and spending tips, and I might even add a slice of perspective without trying to be a psychoanalyst like some other personal finance folks out there.

Please let me know what you think and if you'd like to hear my take on a specific topic.

Most Sincerely,


Don't Wait, Get Prepared

Thankfully the earthquake this morning is reported to have no fatalities, and mostly just minor injuries from glass cuts. This is the perfect time to take a look around the house to identify any troubling potential issues with heavy items or defective electrical wiring. It's all the perfect time to go to the store and stock up on goods like bottled water, toilet paper, flashlights and batteries. These items last for a long time, and are cheapest when no one is thinking about a natural disaster, so go ahead and stock up!

And when you've put the news on and the rest of the family sees that there was an earthquake, organize a quick drill so that your loved ones know what to do. Take responsibility so that your loved ones are safe during dangerous times.

Earthquake Home Kit

Earthquake Destruction

Earthquake Destruction
Earthquake Destruction | Source


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    • DealForALiving profile imageAUTHOR

      Sam Deal 

      4 years ago from Earth

      Thanks for sharing Nadine! Not knowing how long the tremors or earthquakes are going to last is the scariest part. You just hang on until it's over.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 

      4 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Thank you for sharing your earthquake experiences. I've never lived were Earthquakes were recorded, but I know about tremors and that was scary enough. Great tips for people who do live in those regions on the planet.

    • DealForALiving profile imageAUTHOR

      Sam Deal 

      4 years ago from Earth

      Thanks for sharing Ky. I definitely hope that the US is closing the gap as well as some of our international neighbors. There are so many places that aren't built to handle an earthquake on any level so it's a real scary thought.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Very informative hub about Earthquakes! I have witnessed many tremors of lesser intensity and a massive one in Gujarat, India in 2001. Thousands of lives were lost. It is good to be prepared in an Earthquake prone area. But Earthquake like other natural calamities are so unpredictable. At least it is very difficult to forecast the intensity of the calamity.

      Thanks for sharing and voted up!

    • Ky Cardinal profile image


      4 years ago from Louisville, Ky

      I lived for 3 years in Tokyo. They are experts at building with earthquakes in mind. I lived in a high rise and there was never a broken dish. I think the US is getting better at building that way. We can't control nature, but we can learn the best way to deal with what we can control.


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