How to Prepare for the Next Big Earthquake – The New York Times

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When Jacob Margolis felt the biggest earthquake to rumble across Southern California in decades, he didn’t panic. He didn’t jump up to check on his 18-month-old in another room.

“We need to sit here,” Mr. Margolis thought. “Everything is going to be totally fine.”

[Read more about Friday night’s 7.1-magnitude temblor.]

If you’re now thinking that this guy knows something you don’t, you’re probably right.

Mr. Margolis, a journalist with KPCC, spent months researching what to do when a major quake hits for the podcast he hosts, aptly titled, “The Big One.” (You can listen to all the episodes here. Each one also includes a helpful resource guide.)

Over the weekend, I asked Mr. Margolis for some advice. Here’s what he said:

Do not run to the nearest doorway when you feel shaking.

Mr. Margolis said the idea that doorways are the safest parts of buildings is a persistent myth that seems to be traceable back to the 1800s, when the doorway of an adobe house was the only thing left standing after a big quake.

But Mr. Margolis said you may instead get hit by a swinging door. Or, if you try to move while the ground is rolling below your feet, you could break a leg or an ankle.

“Just get under a table,” he said, and cover your head. That’s not a myth.

Keep a pair of shoes next to your bed, and move heavy art or mirrors to places where they are unlikely to fall on you.

The shoes, Mr. Margolis said, could come in handy if you’re trying to get through your home without stepping on broken glass.

Get your earthquake kit together while it’s top of mind.

I asked Mr. Margolis whether he thought residents of the state’s biggest cities would take what was a narrow miss as a wake-up call and actually change their behaviors.

“I think that it probably has peaked in people’s awareness,” he said.

Still, he said, even if you’re not a high-level survivalist, there are easy supplies to have on hand.

Mr. Margolis cited an Amazon shopping list he created for the podcast, but suggested looking for supplies at an Army and Navy surplus store, because they’re often less expensive.

Get your plan, and your most important documents, together.

It may sound boring, but having any documents you may need for disaster recovery will be critical for getting federal aid. (Speaking of federal disaster response, here’s a link to FEMA’s earthquake preparedness checklist.)

Mr. Margolis said the most surprising tip he got while reporting was to ensure that you have end-of-life plans in place.

“God forbid the worst thing happens, it’s kind of the logical conclusion,” he said. “It takes a little bit of weight off your mind.”

Rely on the community around you.

Talk with your loved ones about where you’ll meet if you’re separated and cell service is down. Meet your neighbors.

“You’re going to have to rely on the kindness of strangers,” Mr. Margolis said. But, he said, social science shows that “people often become their best selves after disasters.”

More on the quake:

Gov. Gavin Newsom visited Ridgecrest, the town closest to the quake’s epicenter. He said that the disaster was estimated to have caused more than $100 million in damage. [The Desert Sun]

And at a town hall in Ridgecrest, residents grappled with what’s next. [The Ridgecrest Daily Independent]

(We often link to sites that limit access for nonsubscribers. We appreciate your reading Times coverage, but we also encourage you to support local news if you can.)

ImageA recent poll by a Latino advocacy group showed that a candidate’s ability to speak Spanish was last on a list of Latino voters’ priorities.
A recent poll by a Latino advocacy group showed that a candidate’s ability to speak Spanish was last on a list of Latino voters’ priorities.CreditRuth Fremson/The New York Times

• Presidential candidates have been busting out their Spanish, apparently in hopes of wooing Latino voters. Does it work? [The New York Times]

• “They’re both very, very strong women. I would love to see them together, but I think Elizabeth has the experience.” Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren are rising in the Democratic primary, gaining on Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senator Bernie Sanders. [The New York Times]

Maureen Dowd interviewed Speaker Nancy Pelosi over omelets in San Francisco just after the Pride parade. Ms. Pelosi had a lot to say about divisions within her party and, of course, the president. [New York Times Opinion]

A judge handed a victory to proponents of two San Francisco ballot measures, including one passed by voters that would tax businesses to help pay for homeless services. The ruling could affect the way local governments pass new taxes. [The San Francisco Chronicle]

Chinese tourists used to flood luxury stores throughout the Southland. Not anymore. Why? China’s leaders are pushing to keep that spending at home. [The Los Angeles Times]

• And if you missed it, here’s how that was playing out at South Coast Plaza during Lunar New Year. [The New York Times]

• Eight of Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings, including the Hollyhock House in Los Angeles, have been named a Unesco World Heritage site. They’re among the rare examples of 20th-century architecture to get that recognition. [Curbed]

How did the Clippers win over Kawhi Leonard and Paul George? By winning. [The New York Times]

Megan Rapinoe, center, holds up the World Cup trophy at the end of the tournament.CreditPhilippe Desmazes/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The U.S. women’s soccer team beat the Netherlands to take home its second consecutive World Cup trophy. The squad has long been dominant on the pitch, but in this tournament, its place as a unique and powerful cultural force was cemented. Few athletes have ever been expected to lead in so many ways at once, and the American women lived up to the challenge. [The New York Times]

• Christen Press, who grew up in Palos Verdes and played soccer at Stanford, has made her World Cup performance a tribute to her mother, who died in January. [Sports Illustrated]

The road into Redding’s soccer park is marked 15 Rapinoe Way, after Megan Rapinoe. On Sunday, fans gathered there for a pancake breakfast and to cheer on the team. [Record Searchlight]

• And two decades later, the symbolism of the iconic image of Brandi Chastain (who is from San Jose) in her sports bra has evolved. But it’s still potent. [The New York Times]

The singer Natalie Merchant.CreditChad Batka for The New York Times

The Ridgecrest quake did not take place on the San Andreas Fault. But Monty Sullivan, a 51-year-old who lives in Sonoma County, recommended Natalie Merchant’s “San Andreas Fault,” for the California Soundtrack. He wrote about why it evokes our fragile paradise:

Oh, promised land/O, wicked ground/Build a dream/Tear it down.”

I’ve lived through very good times and very bad times in California, including the 2017 Tubbs Fire, which came very near my house and cost several of my friends everything. There is a sense among Californians that anything is possible (solving the world’s climate change woes, rescuing refugees) even when everything you have disappears in an instant.

Being a Californian is, at its very essence, about being an optimist. Everything is possible, even in the worst of times.

Click here for the California Soundtrack Spotify playlist.

Email your name, age and where you live, along with your pick for the playlist to


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Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, went to school at U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter, @jillcowan.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.


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