Home > Earthquakes > San Andreas – It’s Not Just A Movie!

Are you ready for the big one?

A new earthquake forecast model has been released and the movie San Andreas shows us what might happen if a large earthquake hits Los Angeles. The good news is a tsunami won’t happen, the bad news is the likelihood of a magnitude eight or higher has increased. High rise buildings are not likely to fall over but getting drinkable water will be a problem.

The report released by the US Geological Survey has revised the probability of earthquakes along the San Andreas Fault. Prior to the 1994 Northridge quake, major faults were thought to be the cause of major quakes. The Northridge quake, however, occurred on a previously unknown fault line. Instead of a few major faults, there is actually a vast interconnected network of more than 350.


The two major conclusions from the study are that medium sized quakes (6-8) are less likely while large quakes (8+) are more likely. This means that large old buildings are at increased risk while smaller single story buildings will be safer. Engineers are constantly making improvements to buildings to make them more earthquake resistant.

In the movie, skyscrapers fall over like dominos and a giant tsunami engulfs the city. In reality, tall buildings are built to be flexible so if the building did collapse it would collapse from the top down. A large tsunami would also be impossible because the San Andreas Fault is far enough inland.

How to Prepare

  • Identify safe and dangerous spots in each room. Get under sturdy desks and tables, stay away from windows, fireplaces, and hanging objects.
  • Conduct Practice drills.
  • Decide where and how to reunite with loved ones if separated during an earthquake.
  • Learn how to shut off the water, gas, and electricity.
  • Get an earthquake survival kit or first aid kit and learn CPR and basic first aid.

During the Earthquake


  • If outdoors, find an open area away from walls, buildings, power lines, and trees.
  • If driving, pull over to the side of the road and stop, avoid areas around power lines and stay in the car until the shaking has stopped.
  • If in a crowded public place, do not rush for the doors. Remain calm and cover your head and neck with arms.

After the Earthquake

  • Do not attempt to use the phone unless there is an urgent life threatening emergency.
  • Check for gas and water leaks as well as damaged electrical wiring. Call utility companies if necessary. Do not attempt to re-light the gas pilot without a thorough inspection.
  • Stay away from downed power lines.
  • Do not use your vehicle unless absolutely necessary.
  • Be prepared for aftershocks.
  • Help others in need.
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