Latest Guides

Community News

Getting Ready For “The Big One”

Published on Tuesday, October 19, 2021 | 6:45 am
Photo of Northridge Earthquake of ‘94 response from Red Cross [Photo credit Jeanette Ortiz-Osorio, American Red Cross]

Pasadena is getting its citizens prepared for The Big One, that hypothetical-but-likely earthquake of magnitude 8 or greater that is expected to happen along the San Andreas Fault someday.

But the catch phrase is “be prepared, not scared,” one city official said.

On Wednesday, the city is holding the annual Great ShakeOut event, called “Are You Ready to Shake, Rattle & Roll?” where you can learn to be prepared to respond to an earthquake if at home, work, or school, and how to help yourself, your family and your neighbors.

Lisa Derderian, the City’s Public Information Officer and Emergency Manager, is leading a Zoom session from 5 to 6 p.m. Wednesday to stress that “prepared, not scared” philosophy.

“Because earthquakes are not tangible and on our radar every day, we forget the vital need to be prepared,” she said. “We hear about COVID everyday for almost two years now but we can’t forget other natural disasters that will occur and it’s the fear of the unknown, with the timing. So we need to make sure to build our disaster kits, make our communications and reunification plans and get trained.”

A City Hall statement Monday said earthquakes generally don’t kill people, but collapsing buildings will.

“That is why the City works hard to put preventive measures into place to protect our residents and businesses,” the statement said. “Being prepared for an earthquake is a regular reminder in the State of California and every year we go through an exercise known as the ShakeOut.”

The Pasadena City Council in 2019 passed an ordinance to strengthen soft-story buildings. The state updates building codes every three years, but with an aging building stock in a seismically active region, local authorities say local ordinance updates may be necessary above and beyond State codes to address certain categories of potentially vulnerable buildings.

Scientists and emergency management agencies all agree California is long overdue for a large earthquake. Hundreds of known fault lines run through the state, but the three major ones – San Andreas, San Jacinto and the Hayward fault – have not shown much activity of late, leading seismologists to state these faults have simply been accumulating stress and will likely release that stress through a major shaking, or through several big quakes.

“We encourage everyone to engage and participate in exercises to be prepared for the next earthquake – it’s not IF it is going to happen, it is being prepared WHEN it happens,” the City’s statement said.

Through partnerships with Caltech, various phone apps, and social media sites where people report where they are when they felt any shaking, the City of Pasadena is able to keep track of the various small earthquakes in and around the area, and how much damage is sustained if any, Derderian said.

But everyone should still constantly be reminded of the three things that they must do to protect themselves in the event of a sudden earthquake, she added.

“Drop, Cover and Hold On when shaking starts,” Derderian said. “City employees will be participating in the Shakeout this Thursday and we encourage internal departments to practice their disaster plans, review our floor warden procedures, check personal and work supplies and go through various scenarios for communicating during and after the disaster.”

There are also things people should NOT do in the event of an earthquake.

“Don’t run. Try to remain calm. The more you practice, the more calmly you’ll react,” Derderian said.

The City’s “Are you Ready to Shake, Rattle and Roll” event is in keeping with International ShakeOut Day which is always on the third Thursday of October. As always, you can hold your ShakeOut drill when and where you want. You can choose another date or several dates, and include people you know even in multiple locations, perhaps through video conferencing, says the ShakeOut manual on

Pasadena area residents are encouraged to join the Zoom event on Wednesday where they can learn more about preparing for the “Big One,” and to participate in the annual ShakeOut event Thursday.

To sign up, visit

Get our daily Pasadena newspaper in your email box. Free.

Get all the latest Pasadena news, more than 10 fresh stories daily, 7 days a week at 7 a.m.

Make a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *