San Diego Earthquake Safety: What To Know

How to Stay Safe In A San Diego Earthquake?

When most people think of San Diego, some of the things that likely immediately spring to mind are our beautiful beaches, our amazing attractions (SeaWorld and San Diego Zoo, we’re looking at you!), and our refreshingly friendly locals. However, there is one other thing that does tend to come to mind when thinking about our wonderful city, and that’s the looming question of, “Does San Diego get earthquakes?” While the idea of being in an earthquake can admittedly be more than a little bit scary, especially as a visitor to San Diego, the reality is they’re far more common (and much less terrifying) than you might initially realize.

California actually experiences an average of about 100 earthquakes per day, and most of them are just minor shakes. In fact, the last earthquake in San Diego was more than likely within the last week, and you just didn’t feel it! Even though your chances of experiencing a more serious earthquake while here are relatively slim, it’s still wise to educate yourself about them so you can take appropriate precautions. By taking the time to prepare yourself, and knowing what to do if a San Diego earthquake does occur while you’re here, you can help make sure you stay safe — while also thoroughly enjoying your vacation to our great city!

What Are the Chances of an Earthquake in San Diego?


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While teeny tiny temblors are fairly common, most people don’t even notice that an earthquake has happened until it registers as a III or IV on the Modified Mercalli scale. That said, California is home to several faults, and the Rose Canyon fault runs right along our coast and through downtown. Seismologists have indicated that the chances of a significant San Diego earthquake affecting our region can be as high as 75% in the next twenty-five years. Still, it’s important to not be overly alarmed by this statistic, as there are quite a few things you can do to help ensure your safety should one occur. 

San Diego Earthquake Stats

If you’re wondering how often are there earthquakes in San Diego, you might be relieved to learn that we’re relatively “quieter” than surrounding areas. To put it into perspective, of the 500-odd earthquakes that are actually felt in California annually, very few of them were in our region. Furthermore, the Rose Canyon fault is believed to be unable to generate anything larger than an M7.2, and the Elsinore Fault and San Jacinto faults (in the east and north county areas) will likely cap at an M7.6. Does this mean that the risk of a San Diego earthquake is so low that it should be ignored? No, but it also means that you shouldn’t be excessively wary, either.

Updates on San Diego Earthquakes

While the chances of experiencing a San Diego earthquake are pretty uncommon, staying alert to the latest research and developments — as well as keeping tabs on any seismic activity — can help you with planning a safe trip to San Diego. If you’re looking for an earthquake tracker, San Diego and surrounding areas can turn to the USGS “Did You Feel It?” website. This will allow you to report any possible incidents on their San Diego earthquake map and determine if that rumble you felt actually was one. In addition, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) has a website that lets you check for any hazards in your area, allowing you to remain both empowered and informed.

San Diego Earthquake Precautions for Residents


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As a local, you probably already have experienced the random San Diego earthquake or two while living here. You probably even have a top that says, “I just felt an earthquake in San Diego, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.” However, please don’t get complacent, as an emergency plan can literally save your life. Discuss your emergency plan in advance with your family, and regularly practice earthquake drills, just in case. You should also have a predetermined meeting place established, should you get separated from your loved ones. You should also prepare an emergency kit, complete with a flashlight, a fire extinguisher, a whistle, a radio, and enough food and water to last several days.

It’s also prudent to secure your home to help minimize damage. Heavy items (like televisions, bookshelves, and refrigerators) should be secured to keep them from toppling over. A great way to get peace of mind is through earthquake insurance; San Diego brokers can offer competitive rates, allowing you to protect your home and assets. If possible, it’s also a good idea to take steps to retrofit your home and make any necessary structural repairs to prevent additional damage. Taking first-aid classes from your local Red Cross is also a good idea, as you can use that knowledge to treat minor injuries or other issues that can arise after an earthquake.

Precautions For Travelers In San Diego Earthquake

San Diego is arguably one of the most fantastic places in the entire world to visit, with so many fun and delightful things to offer to its visitors. While it’s true that we do experience the occasional San Diego earthquake here, though, that shouldn’t be enough reason to dissuade you from visiting us. Rather, by taking a few necessary precautions, you can better prepare for the worst possible scenario — regardless if any earthquakes happen or not. For starters, before you leave, you should let loved ones know where you’re going. Or, if you’re an international traveler, register with the local embassy. That way, if something does happen, your contact can take appropriate action.

Once you get here, you should also make sure you have all of the necessary contact information on your person, such as any local emergency numbers and the phone numbers of your emergency contact. Either store them in your wallet or purse, or program them into your phone. Upon checking into your hotel room, take a look around, and try to pinpoint safe places you can hide and protect yourself if an earthquake does occur. This can include underneath a sturdy table or desk, or against an inside wall. Make sure it’s away from heavy furniture, windows, mirrors, or any other hazards that can break or fall on you. 

Safety Tips During San Diego Earthquake

If you happen to experience an earthquake today, San Diego CA is fortunately fully prepared for it — and so should you be. At the first signs of shaking, you should “drop, cover, and hold on.” That is, drop to your knees, seek cover (for example, under a table) and grip it tightly. Don’t try to leave the building, and contrary to popular belief, stay away from doorways. If you’re in bed, remain there, and place a pillow over your head. If driving, find a safe place to stop, turn on your hazard lights, and stay in your vehicle. If you are a wheelchair user, try to find a safe place to lock your brakes, then protect your head. And if you’re outdoors, avoid buildings and power lines, then drop to your knees and protect your head.

What to Do After an Earthquake in San Diego


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Following a California earthquake, San Diego locals and visitors alike should remain cautious, as many aftershocks can occur after the first one. Be prepared to drop, cover, and hold on once more. You or your loved ones may have sustained an injury during the earthquake, so be prepared to administer basic first aid. If someone is bleeding, apply pressure to the wound with a clean cloth or gauze. If you find someone isn’t breathing, administer CPR to them. Do not move anyone unless they are in immediate danger, though, as that can potentially worsen their injuries. Try to contact emergency services, if possible, to get care for more serious injuries.

If your building has been damaged, then you should exit it, but stay away from any damaged buildings and avoid going inside them. If you find yourself trapped under any rubble, you should try to send a message to let others know of your whereabouts. Should you be unable to do so, then bang on any wall or nearby surface (such as a pipe) to draw attention to yourself. If you smell gas, or you suspect that a gas line has been broken, turn it off. And finally, if you’re by the coast, be sure to move inland, as the chances of a tsunami in San Diego are greatly increased following an earthquake.

Staying Safe in San Diego

San Diego is a truly incredible, one-of-a-kind city. However, just like any vacation destination, it’s always important to plan for the unexpected. Is San Diego safe? Yes, but the risk of a major earthquake — albeit nominal — is still there. While it’s always a good idea to be fully prepared, you shouldn’t let that stop you from making the most out of your stay. As long as you’re aware of the risk of a San Diego earthquake, and you make sure you have a contingency plan in place, you can help ensure your trip goes smoothly. And no matter what brings you here, we’re confident you’ll want to come back again and again!

About the author: When Karyl Trejo isn’t writing articles about health and fitness, you can find her hanging out with her husband and two cats on the beautiful Central Coast of California, chipping away at her next science fiction novel. If you want to hit her up for her favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe or swap running tips with her, you can find her LinkedIn here.