Growing up on the East Coast, I never experienced any earthquakes. My parents, who still live there, to this day have never felt a quake. But in 1992, I moved to Los Angeles. (In fact I arrived in April of that year, just in time for the LA riots – but that’s another story!)
It wasn’t long before my roommates and I began to feel small tremors here and there – it was a novelty, and kind of exciting when we did.
That all changed on January 17, 1994, the day of the Northridge Quake. My boyfriend at the time and I were living in Hollywood, and were rudely awakened at 4:30 in the morning by a violent shaking. Neither of us had ever experienced a major earthquake before, and it took a long moment before we realized what was actually happening. The most prominent memory of that moment, aside from the violent shaking and not even being able to stand up in the doorway where I was “supposed” to be, was hearing large explosions outside in the neighborhood, and to be honest my first thought was we were being attacked by the Russians. Well…it was 4:30 in the morning. 😉 Turns out those sounds were the electrical transformers blowing up along our street.
Very quickly we, along with our neighbors, made it out into the street, where we remained for some time before we felt safe enough to go back indoors. Our 1920s-era apartment building suffered some pretty big cracks in the plaster walls, but it was ok, and so were we. I will note that we made some new friends that day, as did many others; LA is notorious for a kind of blasé view towards neighbors but that changed that day, and we spent the next day or two huddled together watching the horrific aftermath on the news and riding out the aftershocks. (A funny side note; years later another friend confided she sleeps in the nude, and had run outside oblivious to her lack of clothes, until a neighbor gently pointed out her condition. These things happened I suppose.)
The Northridge quake was measured at 6.7 on the Richter scale. On October 15, 2006, I experienced another 6.7 quake here in Hawaii. Again, I was awakened by the sensation, but this time I took hold of my small dog who was next to me and rode it out in bed. It was another strange day of aftershocks and cleaning up broken glass (by the way, don’t store cooking oil in glass where it could fall off a shelf – what a nightmare to clean up!!) Mind you, we live in a wood frame house, so I knew no bricks or concrete were coming down on me, and we also live on a giant lava rock – no liquefaction in Hawaii either. That is a big problem in LA and other places. Check out this video of ongoing liquefaction from the recent quake in Japan – frightening to say the least.
Needless to say, earthquakes aren’t fun anymore. We get small tremors pretty regularly from our volcano, and each time I feel one I freeze and wait and see if it tapers off, or grows. It’s now an extremely frightening feeling, one I do not want to go through again. And yet, likely, we will.
So what to do? Experts recommend, “drop, cover and hold on”. The doorway thing has now become controversial, because the door could slam shut and hurt you. And in a really big quake, you may not even be able to stand.
Alternatively, the Triangle of Life is a method of surviving earthquakes developed by Doug Copp, which you will see by reading that Wikipedia entry is quite controversial. After my years of research however, I’ve come to take Wiki with a grain of salt. Alternative theories don’t get much credit there, because the mainstream may have ulterior motives. (You’ll have to spend some time on my other site, Surfing the Tao, if you want to go down that rabbit hole.)
You can watch an introductory video about Copp’s method here. Here is a site which claims this method has been endorsed by many various countries around the world, and offers some possible reasons why the official US mainstream does not.
Myself, I’m not going to be crawling under a table, or standing in a doorway. After reading all of these various suggestions and having been through it before, I’ll be on the floor next to my bed, or maybe in front of my couch, in a spot where no books or mirrors can fall on me, hoping to be in that triangular “void” space created by falling walls and debris. Better yet – I’ll either be outside, or have shoes on to quickly run outside when a tremor starts, and not cut my feet on broken glass. But you may not have time for that, and it could be more dangerous to run with falling objects coming down around you.
Make yourself and your family aware of these options, do your own research and decide on a plan together to stay safe during an earthquake. And get to know your neighbors. You’ll need each other if a big one hits.