Types of Disasters


Earthquakes: Southern California’s Most Prevalent Disasters

An earthquake is a sudden, rapid shaking of the ground caused by the breaking and shifting of rock beneath the Earth’s surface. This shaking can cause buildings and bridges to collapse; disrupt gas, electric, and phone service; and sometimes trigger landslides, avalanches, flash floods, fires and huge ocean waves (tsunamis). Buildings with foundations resting on unconsolidated landfill, old waterways or other unstable soil are most at risk. Buildings or trailers and manufactured homes not tied to a reinforced foundation anchored to the ground are also at risk since they can be shaken off their mountings during an earthquake.

Before an Earthquake Strikes

  • Pick “safe places” in each room of your home. A safe place could be under a sturdy table or desk or against an interior wall away from windows, bookcases and tall furniture that could fall on you. The shorter the distance to move to safety, the less likely you will be injured. (Injury statistics show that people moving as little as 10 feet during an earthquake are most likely to be injured.) Pick safe places in your office, school and other buildings that you frequent.
  • Practice “drop, cover and hold on” in each safe place. Drop under a sturdy desk or table and hold on to one leg of the table or desk. Protect your eyes by keeping your head down. Frequent practice will help reinforce safe behavior during an earthquake.
  • Build a kit. What you have on hand when an earthquake strikes can make a big difference. Plan to store enough supplies for everyone in your household for at least three days.
  • Make a plan. Planning ahead is the first step to a calmer and more assured disaster response. Develop your earthquake preparedness plan and evacuation plan with your family. Inform guests, babysitters and caregivers of your plan. Everyone in your home should know what to do if an earthquake occurs. Assure yourself that others will respond properly even if you are not at home during an earthquake.
  • Get training. Arrange for your neighborhood, business or institution to receive Pasadena Emergency Response Team (PERT) training offered by the Pasadena Fire Department. You’ll learn disaster preparedness, first aid, fire suppression and light search and rescue, all or which will be vitally important during and after a major earthquake or other disaster. Call 626-744-7276 to arrange for the training.
  • Discuss earthquakes with your family. Everyone should know what to do in case all family members are not together. Discussing earthquakes ahead of time helps reduce fear and anxiety and lets everyone know how to respond.
  • Talk with your insurance agent. Different areas have different requirements for earthquake protection.

Protect Your Property

  • Bolt bookcases, china cabinets and other tall furniture to wall studs. Brace or anchor high or top-heavy objects. During an earthquake, these items can fall over, causing damage or injury.
  • Secure items that might fall, such as televisions, books, computers, etc. Falling items can cause damage or injury.
  • Install strong latches or bolts on cabinets. The contents of cabinets can shift during an earthquake. Latches will prevent cabinets from flying open and contents from falling out.
  • Move large or heavy objects and fragile items to lower shelves. There will be less damage and less chance of injury if these items are on lower shelves.
  • Store breakable items such as bottled foods, glass and china, in low, closed cabinets with latches. Latches will help keep contents of cabinets inside.
  • Store weed killers, pesticides and flammable products securely on bottom shelves in closed cabinets with latches. Chemical products will be less likely to create hazardous situations from lower, confined locations.
  • Hang heavy items, such as pictures and mirrors, away from beds, couches and anywhere people sit. Earthquakes can knock things off walls, causing damage or injury.
  • Brace overhead light fixtures. During earthquakes, overhead light fixtures are the most common items to fall, causing damage or injury.
  • Strap your water heater to wall studs. The water heater may be your best source of drinkable water following an earthquake. Protect it from damage and leaks.
  • Bolt down any gas appliances. After an earthquake, broken gas lines frequently create fire hazards.
  • Install flexible pipe fittings to avoid gas or water leaks. Flexible fittings will be less likely to break.
  • Learn how to shut off your gas. Visit www.socalgas.com and click on Safety or call (800) 427-2200.
  • Repair any deep cracks in ceilings or foundations. Get expert advice if there are signs of structural defects. Earthquakes can turn cracks into ruptures and make smaller problems bigger.
  • Check to see if your house is bolted to its foundation. Homes bolted to their foundations are less likely to be severely damaged during earthquakes. Homes that are not bolted have been known to slide off their foundations; many have been destroyed because they became uninhabitable.
  • Consider having your building evaluated by a professional structural design engineer. Ask about home repair and strengthening tips for exterior features, such as porches, front and back decks, sliding glass doors, canopies, carports and garage doors. Learn about additional ways you can protect your home. A professional can give you advice on how to reduce potential damage.

During an Earthquake

  • Drop, cover and hold on! Move only a few steps to a nearby safe place. It is very dangerous to try to leave a building during an earthquake because objects can fall on you. Many fatalities occur when people run outside of buildings, only to be killed by falling debris from collapsing walls. In U.S. buildings, you are safer to stay where you are.
  • If you are in bed, hold on and stay there, protecting your head with a pillow. You are less likely to be injured staying where you are. Broken glass on the floor has caused injury to those who have rolled to the floor or tried to get to doorways.
  • If you are outdoors, find a clear spot away from buildings, trees, street lights and power lines. Drop to the ground and stay there until the shaking stops. Injuries can occur from falling trees, street lights and power lines or building debris.
  • If you are in a vehicle, pull over to a clear location, stop and stay there with your seatbelt fastened until the shaking has stopped. Trees, power lines, poles, street signs and other overhead items may fall during earthquakes. Stopping will help reduce your risk. A hard-topped vehicle will help protect you from flying or falling objects. Once the shaking has stopped, proceed with caution. Avoid bridges or freeway onramps and offramps that might have been damaged by the quake.
  • Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you’re sure it’s safe to exit. More injuries happen when people move during the shaking of an earthquake. After the shaking has stopped, if you go outside, move quickly away from the building to prevent injury from falling debris.
  • Stay away from windows. Windows can shatter with such force that you can be injured from several feet away.
  • In a multistory building, expect fire alarms and sprinklers to go off during a quake. Earthquakes frequently cause fire alarm and fire sprinkler systems to go off even if there is no fire. Check for and extinguish small fires. If you exit, use the stairs – not the elevator!

After an Earthquake

  • Check yourself for injuries. Often people take care of others without checking their own injuries. You will be better able to care for others if you are not injured or if you have received first aid for your injuries.
  • Protect yourself from further danger by putting on long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, sturdy shoes and work gloves. This will protect your from injury by broken objects.
  • After you have taken care of yourself, help people who are injured or trapped. Call 9-1-1, then give first aid when appropriate. Don’t try to move seriously injured people unless they are in immediate danger of further injury.
  • Look for and extinguish small fires. Eliminate fire hazards. Putting out small fires quickly using available resources will prevent them from spreading. Fire is the most common hazard following earthquakes.
  • Leave the gas ON at the main valve unless you smell gas or think it’s leaking. It may be weeks or months before professionals can turn gas back on using the correct procedures, so only turn gas off if you strongly suspect there is a leak. Explosions have caused injury and death when homeowners have improperly turned their gas back on by themselves.
  • Clean up spilled medicines, bleaches, gasoline and other flammable liquids immediately and carefully. Avoid the additional hazard of a chemical emergency.
  • Open closet and cabinet doors cautiously. Contents may have shifted during an earthquake and may fall out when you open closet and cabinet doors, creating further damage or injury.
  • Inspect your home for damage. Get everyone out if your home is unsafe. Aftershocks following earthquakes can cause further damage to unstable buildings. If your home has experienced damage, get out before aftershocks happen.
  • Help neighbors who may require special assistance. Senior citizens and people with disabilities may require additional assistance. If there are caregivers, they may need assistance as well.
  • Listen to a portable, battery-operated radio or television for updated emergency information and instructions. If the electricity is out, this may be your main source of information. Local radio may provide the most appropriate advice for your particular situation.
  • Expect aftershocks. Each time you feel an aftershock, drop, cover, and hold on! Aftershocks frequently occur minutes, days, weeks, and even months following an earthquake.
  • Watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines and stay out of damaged areas. Hazards caused by earthquakes are often difficult to see and you could be easily injured.
  • Stay out of damaged buildings. If you are away from home, return only when authorities say it is safe. Damaged buildings may be destroyed by aftershocks following the main quake.
  • Use battery-powered lanterns or flashlights to inspect your home. Kerosene lanterns, torches, candles and matches may start fires.
  • Inspect the entire length of chimneys carefully for damage. Unnoticed damage could lead to fire or injury from falling debris during an aftershock. Cracks in chimneys can be the cause of fires years later.
  • For insurance purposes, take pictures of any damage to your house and its contents.
  • Avoid smoking inside buildings. Smoking in confined areas can cause fires.
  • When entering buildings, use extreme caution. Building damage may have occurred where you least expect it. Carefully watch every step you take.
  • Examine walls, floor, doors, staircases and windows to make sure the building is not in danger of collapsing.
  • Check for gas leaks. If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and quickly leave the building. Turn off the gas, using the outside main valve if you can, and call the gas company at 800-427-2200 from a neighbor’s home. If you turn off the gas for any reason, it must be turned back on by a professional.
  • Look for damage to the electrical system. If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires or if you smell burning insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. NEVER step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker; call an electrician first for advice.
  • Check for sewage and damage to water lines. If you suspect sewage lines are damaged, avoid using the toilets and call a plumber immediately. If water pipes
  • are damaged, call Pasadena Water and Power’s emergency assistance line at (626) 744-7138 and avoid using water from the tap. You can obtain safe water from undamaged water heaters or by melting ice cubes.
  • Watch for loose plaster, drywall, and ceilings that could fall.
  • Use the telephone only to report life-threatening emergencies. Telephone lines are frequently overwhelmed in disaster situations. They need to be clear for emergency calls to get through.
  • Watch animals closely. The behavior of pets may change dramatically after an earthquake. Normally quiet and friendly cats and dogs may become aggressive or defensive. Keep your dog on a leash and in a fenced yard.


El Niño Preparation

As Southern California prepares for El Niño, the City of Pasadena has initiated regular planning meetings with all internal and external stakeholders to prepare for the heavy rains. In the near future, critical information will be provided to assist residents and business owners in protecting their properties.

Here are some helpful tips to get you started for the season.

  • Yard Clean-Up Make a general inspection of your entire yard area for dead trees or dead limbs, yard debris, outdoor furniture, or other objects that could be blown by storm winds. It is important not to over-trim trees as improper pruning actually leaves trees more vulnerable. Do not clear out rain gutters or trim trees on a ladder without a spotter
  • Drains and Gutters Make sure all drains and gutters are cleared of debris and functioning properly before the storm season. Storm water runoff from impermeable surfaces (e.g., roofs, driveways, and patios) should be directed into a collection system to avoid soil saturation.
  • Roofs Inspect your roof, or hire a roofing contractor, to check for loose tiles, holes, or other signs of trouble.
  • Retaining Walls Visually inspect all retaining wall drains, surface drains, culverts, ditches, etc. for obstructions or other signs of malfunction, before the storm season, and after every storm event.
  • Slopes Visually inspect all sloped areas for signs of gullying, surface cracks, slumping etc. Also inspect patios, retaining walls, garden walls, etc. for signs of cracking or rotation.
  • Bare Ground Make sure your yard does not have large bare areas which could be sources for mudflows during a storm event. The fall is a good time to put down mulch and establish many native plants; it may be possible to vegetate these bare areas before the storm season.
  • Storm Drains Visually inspect nearby storm drains, before the storm season and after every rain; if the storm drains are obstructed, clear the material from the drain or notify the Public Works Department.
  • Emergency Kits Make sure all members of your family have emergency kits in case of power outages
  • Homeowners Insurance Make sure it’s updated and you have flood insurance if required


  • Sign up for local emergency alerts at www.cityofpasadena.net/fire/pleas and www.nixle.com
  • Do not call 9-1-1 unless you have a life-threatening emergency.
  • Before a rainstorm hits, make sure your roof, retaining walls, etc., are in good shape and that rain gutters and downspouts are cleared of debris.
  • Turn off sprinklers and irrigation systems.
  • Make sure pets are indoors or have safe cover.
  • Unless you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, you should be prepared to be your own first responder for up to 72 hours.
  • Stay indoors during rainstorms if possible.
  • Stay away from storm drain channels, the Arroyo Seco flood control channel and any flooded areas.
  • If you must drive, be cautious and allow extra time for travel. California law requires that headlights must be turned on whenever windshield wipers are in use, even during daytime hours.
  • If you are driving and see flooded roads ahead, turn around. About 80 percent of all flood-related deaths occur when drivers try to navigate flowing water.
  • For properties in hillside areas with the potential for mudslides, free sandbags and sand may be available at Fire Station 37, 3430 E. Foothill Blvd; and Fire Station 38, 1150 Linda Vista Ave. Call (626) 744-4675 to ask about availability.
  • In case of mudslides or flooding, never stay in an area where raw sewage accumulates and make sure no part of your body touches raw sewage. If you do come in direct bodily contact with raw sewage, consult with your family physician immediately. To report raw sewage, call the Street Maintenance and Integrated Waste Management Division of the Public Works Department at (626) 744-4087. To learn about proper cleaning of a home and personal belongings that have been contaminated by raw sewage, call the Environmental Health Division of the Public Health Department at (626) 744-6004.
  • There are a small number of private roads in Pasadena, which are not public property. Owners of private roads are solely responsible for damages due to mudslides and other issues.
  • Potential mosquito breeding can be found anywhere there is standing water in discarded tires, rain gutters, containers, decorative ponds and potted plants. Standing water should be emptied immediately after a rainstorm. To report standing water along public streets and sidewalks, call the Environmental Health Division of the Public Health Department at (626) 744-6004.
  • Beware of scams. Anyone claiming to be roofers and home-improvement contractors must be licensed and bonded. More information is available on the Contractors State License Board website at www.cslb.ca.gov (click on Consumers). If people claim to be City of Pasadena employees and approach residents with a demand for payment for permit fees, repairs or power restoration, they are scammers. Call the Pasadena Police Department at (626) 744-4241 if you suspect a scam.
  • To report power outages, call (626) 744-4673. To report building damage, call (626) 744-4200. To report a life-threatening emergency, call 9-1-1.
  • Check on neighbors who may require special assistance, especially senior citizens, persons with disabilities and minors who are home alone.


  • Sign up for local emergency alerts at ww5.cityofpasadena.net/fire/LINK-TBD and http://www.nixle.com.
  • Do not call 9-1-1 unless you have a life-threatening emergency.
  • Stay home if possible until the wind situation improves. Some roads may be impassable due to fallen trees and/or downed power lines.
  • Stay clear of downed power lines and anything touching them. Always assume that a power line is live and hazardous. Downed cable and telephone wires can also be hazardous.
  • Unless you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, you should be prepared to be your own first responder for up to 72 hours.
  • The combination of high winds and dry trees, shrubs and other fuels could create extreme fire danger. During a Red Flag period, parking is restricted on narrow and/or winding roads in hillsides and open-space areas to allow access of fire engines and evacuation of residents.
  • The removal and clearing of trees that are not in the public right of way is the responsibility of private property owners. Anyone who suffers damage to vehicles, homes and other property caused by fallen city trees or tree limbs should contact their private insurers for proper handling of claims.
  • Secure or store trash cans as well as furniture and other items on patios, porches and yards.
  • Do not drive high-profile vehicles that may be blown over by high winds, such as RVs and large trucks.
  • If a federal emergency is declared for the Pasadena area, private property owners might be eligible for monetary relief due to windstorm damage. Apply at www.fema.gov/assistance or call (800) 621-FEMA.
  • Owners of private property damaged during windstorms might be eligible for temporary relief from property tax. Apply on the L.A. County Assessor website.
  • Beware of scams. Anyone claiming to be roofers and home-improvement contractors must be licensed and bonded. More information is available on the Contractors State License Board website at http://www.cslb.ca.gov. If people claim to be City of Pasadena employees and approach residents with a demand for payment for permit fees, repairs or power restoration, they are scammers. Call the Pasadena Police Department at (626) 744-4241 if you suspect a scam.
  • To report power outages, call (626) 744-4673. To report fallen or compromised trees in the public right of way, call (626) 744-4321. To report fallen or compromised trees on private property, call (626) 744-4009. To report building damage, call (626) 744-4200. To report a life-threatening emergency, call 9-1-1.
  • Check on neighbors who may require special assistance, especially senior citizens, persons with disabilities and minors who are home alone.


Wildfire Prevention:

  • Keep shrubs and trees well-trimmed and make sure they’re planted 18 inches apart.  Good choices with high moisture content include citrus, oak and oleander.
  • Add at least three inches of non-wood mulch over planted areas to prevent weeds.
  • Keep property free of debris that can catch fire, including dead leaves, branches, dried weeds and other vegetation, and firewood.
  • If you’re planning a large-scale landscaping project, check with Pasadena Fire Department about current regulations.
  • Clean leaves, needles and twigs from roof gutters.
  • Soak trees and shrubs once a month to maintain leaf moisture.
  • Keep patio furniture, gas barbecues and other flammable objects a minimum of 20 feet away from structures.
  • Never toss a lighted cigarette onto the ground, and never walk off and leave a cigarette burning.
  • Make sure your emergency kit is stocked and ready, and review your personal and family emergency plans.
  • In the event of an evacuation order, be sure to follow the directions of police and fire personnel in your neighborhood.  If you have a pet, make sure it has a tag with your phone number and the pet’s name in addition to any required license tags.  Evacuation shelters rarely accept animals other than those that assist people with disabilities, so make arrangements in advance with friends or animal shelters in other areas.

Fire Prevention:

Simple Steps That Could Save Your Life:

  • Change Your Smoke Detector Batteries – The IAFC and fire experts nationwide encourage people to change smoke detector batteries at least annually. An easy way to remember to change your batteries is when you turn your clock back in the fall. Replace old batteries with fresh, high quality alkaline batteries, such as energizer brand batteries, to keep your smoke detector going year-long.
  • Check Your Smoke Detectors – After inserting a fresh battery in your smoke detector, check to make sure the smoke detector itself is working by pushing the safety test button.
  • Count Your Smoke Detectors – Install at least one smoke detector on every level of your home, including the basement and family room and, most important, outside all bedrooms.
  • Vacuum Your Smoke Detectors – Each month, clean your smoke detectors of dust and cobwebs to ensure their sensitivity.
  • Change Your Flashlight Batteries – To make sure your emergency flashlights work when you need them, use high-quality alkaline batteries. Note: Keep a working flashlight near your bed, in the kitchen, basement and family room, and use it to signal for help in the event of a fire.
  • Install Fire Extinguishers – Install a fire extinguisher in or near your kitchen and know how to use it. Should you need to purchase one, the IAFC recommends a multi-or all-purpose fire extinguisher that is listed by an accredited testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratory.
  • Plan and Practice Your Escape – Create at least two different escape routes and practice them with the entire family. Children are at double the risk of dying in a home fire because they often become scared and confused during fires. Make sure your children understand that a smoke detector signals a home fire and that they recognize its alarm.
  • Change Your Clock, Change Your Battery – Energizer brand Batteries, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and your local fire department urge you to adopt a simple, potentially lifesaving habit: change the batteries in your smoke detector when you change your clocks back to standard time in the fall.
  • Additional Fire Safety Resources – link to Fire Prevention/Safety Resources

Consider The Following:

  • Each day in the U.S., an average of three children die in home fires – 1,100 children each year. About 3,600 children are injured in house fires each year. Ninety percent of child fire deaths occur in homes without working smoke detectors.
  • Although smoke detectors are in 92 percent of American homes, nearly one-third don’t work because of old or missing batteries.
  • A working smoke detector reduces the risk of dying in a home fire by nearly half.

What to do if Your Smoke Detector Begins Ringing or if There is a Fire

  • Remain calm and get out. Do not try to fight the fire.
  • Call 9-1-1 from a safe place.
  • If your clothes catch on fire, STOP where you are, DROP to the ground and ROLL over and over to smother the flames.
  • Drop to the floor to avoid smoke and fumes. Crawl to safety.
  • Feel the door with the back of your hand before you open it. If it is hot, find another way out.
  • If you are unable to get out of your home for any reason, get near a window and stay close to the floor. If possible, signal for help.

Winter Fire Safety:

Pasadena Fire Department offers these tips for keeping your home and loved ones safe:

  • Water your tree daily to keep it fresh. Keep it away from heat sources.
  • If you have an artificial tree, be sure it is fire-retardant.
  • Use only flame-retardant or non-combustible materials.
  • Make sure your fireplace or wood stove is in working condition. Have your chimney connections and flues inspected by a professional and cleaned, if necessary, before lighting a fire. Burn only chopped wood – never pine boughs, paper or old gift wrap.
  • Don’t set lit candles near young children or pets; keep matches and lighters out of reach.
  • Keep indoor and outdoor lights in good shape and check them carefully for burned-out bulbs or frayed cords. Buy a new set if necessary. Don’t overload electrical circuits.
  • Always keep a family first aid kit and fire extinguisher on hand.
  • When choosing a new space heater, look for the ULC/CSA approval on the box. Make sure the heater shuts off automatically if it tips over.
  • Space heaters need space! Keep yours at least three feet away from other curtains, furniture and other objects.
  • Never use a space heater as a drying rack.
  • Never use a barbecue or hibachi indoors.