There’s been a bit of debate going on recently over a report about the chances of a major earthquake in the Los Angeles area in the not-too-distant future.

An article in a science publication cited a study that predicted a 99.9 percent probability for an earthquake with a magnitude of 5 or larger over the next 3 years. That study was challenged by the U.S. Geological Survey, which said the probability is more like 85 percent.

Well, we’re not scientists so we’re not going to take sides on the argument. We do agree with both parties that there’s a good chance we could face a large earthquake in the future—perhaps bigger than any of us have faced before.

Because we live in earthquake country, our roads, bridges and buildings are built to certain earthquake standards.  In fact, when Forest Lawn built the Great Mausoleum in Glendale, one of the leading authorities on earthquakes said “if this mausoleum were damaged by a quake to the extent of even one percent of its valuation, I would expect to finds 90 percent of all the buildings in complete ruin.”

However, nothing is 100 percent certain when it comes to structure. As we saw in two previous large earthquakes—the San Francisco quake in 1989 which damaged the Bay Bridge and caused $5 billion in damages, and the Northridge quake in 1994 that destroyed buildings and a freeway overpass causing between $15 and $40 billion in damages— the next big one will also cause great damage.

So knowing that it’s a matter of when, not if, a big one strikes, there are some simple things we can all do before an earthquake:

  • Store critical supplies (e.g., water, medication) and important document such as insurance policies, memorial plans and wills. Plan on at least a 3 day supply of food and water.
  • Secure items that could fall and cause injuries (e.g., bookshelves mirrors, light fixtures).
  • Look around places where you spend time.  Identify safe places such as under a sturdy piece of furniture or against an interior wall in your home, office or school so that when the shaking starts, you Drop, Cover, and Hold On: Drop to the ground, Cover your head and neck with your arms, and if a safer place is nearby, crawl to it and Hold On.

For more tips on earthquake preparation, as well as what to do during and after an earthquake, please visit