Earthquakes Are Wake-Up Call for Malibu

Two powerful earthquakes jolted most of Southern California out of earthquake complacency last week—the second quake more powerful than the first. Many in Malibu and beyond were caught off guard after July 4’s 6.4 temblor and its July 5 aftershock of 7.1—the southland’s strongest earthquake in more than 20 years.

Although no major damage was reported in Malibu, Friday’s quake saw the most shaking Malibu has experienced in decades. The Malibu Times spoke with City of Malibu Public Safety Specialist Stephanie Berger for tips on how to be prepared for another major quake that seismologists for years have warned will surely affect Southern California.

Berger stressed that emergency experts can’t emphasize enough to stock adequate water—for yourself, your family and your pets. 

“One of the things we strongly recommend to be prepared in terms of supplies is food and water,” Berger said. “For a long time, the standard has been three days, but we suggest you have more than that on hand if you have the capacity or the financial resources to do that. A big concern if there was an earthquake on the San Andreas fault or elsewhere, [it] could really mess up the water supply long-term.” Making sure you have enough food and water could be vital. Experts typically recommend one gallon of water a day per person. Small pets may need less—horses obviously more. If you already have an earthquake kit prepared, this is a great time to check expiration dates on food and other items in your kit. Believe it or not, you may find expiration dates stamped on water bottles. Some safety experts frown on drinking water past its expiration date, but do agree you could still keep it for handwashing, toilet flushing or other purposes.

After your food and water supplies needs are met—and this is vital not only for homeowners, but also for businesses—safety experts suggest securing heavy furniture and items that hang from ceilings and on walls. 

“Make sure that nothing is going to come off of a wall or fall down and hit you,” Berger reminded. “A lot of injuries people sustain during earthquakes are due to falling objects. Taking a walk through your home and making sure that you attach and secure things where you can is really helpful.”


To avoid a fire caused by a gas line rupture, gas supply lines can be turned off, although experts suggest only doing so if you smell gas.  Odors are added to gases specifically for this purpose. 

“The curriculum we teach as part of CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) is we only suggest you turn off gas if you can smell it. Otherwise, we suggest don’t turn it off because then a professional has to come back and turn it on. In a situation where there’s a huge workload for the gas company, you might be stuck for a long time without gas if you turn it off unnecessarily,” Berger explained.

The City of Malibu currently has five disaster information sites in various locations around Malibu with emergency containers stocked with supplies for earthquake and fire conditions. A sixth container is currently being assembled for use. 

“We’re trying to improve it for a future disaster like a wildfire or earthquake so these containers can all become information sites where people can gather to learn more about what’s going on, what the city’s doing, especially in circumstances where the power’s down or people don’t have internet access,” according to Berger. Malibu CERT members are trained to facilitate the sites and will mobilize to distribute information as it becomes available during emergencies. Expect the City of Malibu to announce more information on the disaster information sites at a presentation scheduled for September.

Berger added, “We always encourage people to sign up for the disaster notification and city alerts through the City of Malibu website. These earthquakes didn’t impact Malibu, but in the future, if there was a quake that did, that would be the first way the city would try to communicate with residents and let them know what’s going on.” 


Earthquake kit checklist

First aid:

• Prescriptions and long-term medications

• Hydrogen peroxide (to wash/disinfect wounds)

• Antibiotic ointment

• Individually wrapped alcohol swabs

• Aspirin and non-aspirin tablets

• Anti-diarrheal medicine

• Eye drops

• Bandages

• Ace bandages

• Rolled gauze

• Cotton swabs

• Medical tape

• First aid book

• Scissors/tweezers

• Thermometer

• Bar soap

• Tissues

• Sunscreen

• Paper cups

• Pocket knife

• Small plastic bags

• Safety pins

• Needle and thread

• Instant cold packs

• Sanitary napkins

• Splinting materials

Home survival kit:

• Emergency water and non-perishable food (at least three days’ worth)

• Ax, shovel, broom

• Tool kit (screwdriver, pliers, hammer, adjustable wrench)

• Rope, plastic sheeting, duct tape

• Sturdy shoes or boots

• Durable gloves

• Candles, waterproof matches, flashlight, lantern, batteries

• Change of clothing

• Knife

• Garden hose (for siphoning and firefighting)

• Tent

• Blankets and/or sleeping bags

• Portable radio with extra batteries

• Eyeglasses

• Fire extinguisher (dry chemical)

• Food, water and supplies for pets

• Toilet tissue

• Cash (including small bills)

Car survival kit

• Blankets

• Bottled water

• Change of clothes

• Fire extinguisher (dry chemical)

• First aid kit & manual

• Emergency signal device, small mirror, whistle

• Flashlight and battery-operated radio with fresh batteries

• Food (nonperishable—nutrition bars, etc)

• Gloves

• Local maps and compass

• Rope for towing, rescue, etc.

• Paper and pencils

• Moist towelettes

• Prescription medicine

• Toilet tissue

• Tool kit

• Jumper cables

• Duct tape

This information is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For more, visit

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