Getting Ready for ‘The Big One’

Fault lines in and around Malibu

Little more than 24 hours after the City of Malibu held a virtual workshop on earthquake preparedness, a 4.6-magnitude shaker rattled many Angelenos out of bed Friday night. Although this week’s earthquake did little damage, Malibu’s Public Safety Department is urging residents to be prepared for “The Big One”—described as an eight-magnitude quake that scientists have been predicting for the San Andreas Fault that runs through California. Such a temblor would cause devastation in urban areas and has the potential to isolate Malibu from other parts of the southland, should roadways be impassable due to slides.

However, the San Andreas is not the only fault that could impact Malibu. There are other known—and still yet unknown—fault systems. Geologists have mapped a few known “active coastal Malibu faults capable of producing a 6.5- to 7-magnitude earthquake,” according to Malibu Public Safety Specialist Sarah Kaplan. If a local quake occurred, “The city may be heavily damaged, but resources and aid would come quickly due to the lack of competing need,” Kaplan said Thursday evening at the virtual event organized by the city.

“Basic utilities may be restored relatively quickly, as well,” Kaplan continued. “These are on known faults. However, I’d like to remind everyone that the Northridge earthquake occurred on a previously unknown fault. So, the area might be more seismically active than we’re aware.”

In the event of a San Andreas quake, Malibu may not be as damaged physically, but “utilities such as water, electricity and gas have the potential to be far more impacted,” according to Kaplan. Support could be slow to reach Malibu. “It’s very important residents of Malibu and Southern California be prepared to be self-sufficient for two to three weeks in the event of such a disaster,” Kaplan advised.

So, are you prepared for “The Big One”?

Experts advise to have a plan and some essentials close at hand, like an earthquake bedside kit. This would include a flashlight, closed-toed shoes, comfortable clothes and work gloves.

In the event electricity is out, a battery powered or hand crank radio is an excellent source to receive news. You’ll need at least a gallon of water per day per person and don’t forget water and extra food for your pets.  Have a stash of shelf-stable goods, but include food you’ll actually want to eat. And don’t forget a manual can opener.

Go through your home and try to mitigate any hazards that exist.  Secure bookcases and top-heavy furniture to the wall. Do not place tall furniture near doorways that can be blocked. Secure TVs with straps or into wall studs. Anchor ceiling lights, fans and hanging objects. Never hang heavy decorations that can fall onto your bed. Secure small knickknacks with earthquake putty.

Once shaking starts, Kaplan advised to wait until shaking stops before going outside. She also pointed out there are foreshocks.

“The first quake may not be the strongest,” she warned.

The threat of a tsunami after an earthquake is also a possibility. Those near the coast are advised to head inland and up as quickly and safely as you can.

Malibu City Hall is participating in the annual International Shake Out Day Oct. 15, part of an effort to get schools and workplaces to practice earthquake drills.

“It’s really important to sign up for emergency alerts before disaster hits,” Kaplan reminded. Go to or the county of Los Angeles alerts at