The Earthquake Survival Guide

By Scott Roeben


When it comes to guides on earthquake preparedness, there is one thing of which you can be sure. You have no time to waste on introductions. If you want an introduction—or an appendix, or glossary, for that matter—try the Encyclopedia Britannica.

What Causes Earthquakes?

What do you think we are, a seismologist? No, we're a guide. Stop asking so many questions. All you need to know is that earthquakes result from faults. What faults, you ask? Well, in the case of California, there's the smog, riots, water shortages, rampant automobile insurance fraud and gang violence. How these faults result in earthquakes we do not know, but we just enjoy complaining, frankly.

The Big One

There has been a lot of discussion in recent years about the "Big One." Unfortunately, no one can hear the discussion because of all the giggling associated with the term "Big One." It is imperative that we prepare for any emergency, whether it is the "Big One" or merely "The One That Jolts Our Fillings Loose At Four In The Morning."

Survival Kit

After an earthquake hits, it is too late to prepare. ("Prepare" comes from the Latin "pre" meaning before, and "pare" meaning "the latter part of the word 'prepare.'") Take time before a disaster strikes to assemble a survival kit. In it, you should have the following:

Gauze squares
Baby formula

At first glance, this list may appear incomplete. We know, but we are plagiarizing the list from another guidebook and our hands are cramping up from all the typing.

During the Earthquake

The most important thing to remember during an earthquake is to remain calm. That being the case, perhaps we should have recommended that you keep several liters of Vodka in your survival kit. Oh, well.

During an earthquake, take cover under a table (or sumo wrestler, if possible).

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  Standing in a doorway is a good idea, too. Assuming you still have one.

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Experts agree that an even better idea is to get the hell out.

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When an earthquake subsides, it is essential you determine whether or not you are still alive. If not, this may put a crimp in your day.

The possibility of death resulting from an earthquake, or being left in a long-term vegetative state (like most employees of the D.M.V.), makes it imperative that you put your legal affairs in order. Make out a will right away. Contrary to what you might think, relatives appreciate a good joke and will be understanding when you leave your entire estate to your gerbil.

Be Aware

Let's assume you survive the earthquake. You are not out of the woods yet. Beware. Aside from the obvious property damage around you, there are many unseen dangers as well.

First, you may smell gas. We highly recommend that you blame it on the dog.

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Next, you may be without power in your home. This is probably the result of downed power lines. Remember that it is not a wise idea to put a live power wire down the front of your pants. Not that anyone would do that, mind you. Besides, our doctor assures us that the burns should heal quickly and that the hair loss is not permanent.

Lastly, check your sewer lines. Plumbing is sometimes damaged during an earthquake. Problems with your home's plumbing can be detected by a foul odor—an odor which will be familiar to those who spend any amount of time around personal injury attorneys.

Caveat Something

After a massive tragedy, there are those who will try to take advantage of the situation. Price-gouging is not uncommon. It is sometimes necessary to deal with contractors to do repairs and rebuilding, and while many (all right, three) are trustworthy, many are not. Here are two tips to keep in mind:

1. Make sure your contractor has a license. Your contract should not be written in crayon.

2. Avoid contractors wearing bunny suits or fishnet stockings.


The damage caused by a natural disaster can be emotional as well as physical. Earthquakes can be especially frightening for children because, well, they are not particularly bright.

The best advice to follow when trying to overcome the trauma of experiencing a major quake can best be summed up in this way:


That's right. It's not the end of the world.

In the end, you just have to realize that there are worse things in the world than earthquakes you could wake up to.

Just ask Frank Gifford.

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