NORTHRIDGE EARTHQUAKE: 25 Years Later, Are We Ready for the Next Quake?

Posted on 01/17/2019
Emergency Operations Center

25 years ago today, Los Angeles woke up to shaking that would change the city forever. The Northridge earthquake collapsed buildings and freeway overpasses, broke water mains, toppled power lines, and reminded us that we live in earthquake country. 

The Emergency Management Department, other City departments, regional partners, and everyday Angelenos have been working hard since then to ensure that LA is ready for the next quake. 

Establishing Emergency Management in the City of Los Angeles

One of the biggest changes since the 1994 quake is the creation of the Emergency Management Department (EMD)! The department started off as a division with the City Administrative Officer, but became a standalone department in the year  2000.


Emergency Operations Center

Since then, we've expanded our staffing and built a state of the art Emergency Operations Center where we coordinate and support city response to emergencies and disasters. Today, the City of Los Angeles Emergency Management Department and Emergency Operations Center are national leaders in local emergency management. 

    ShakeAlertLA Earthquake Early Warning App

    What would you do if you knew an earthquake was on its way? The brand new ShakeAlertLA app, released to the public last month, gives LA County residents and businesses crucial seconds of warning before an earthquake hits. The app uses ShakeAlert earthquake early warning technology operated by the United States Geological Survey to detect quakes when they start and notify you before the shaking arrives. The app was developed in coordination with Mayor Garcetti's office, the LA City Information Technology Agency, the United States Geological Survey (USGS), and AT&T.


    Screen shots of Shake Alert LA app screens

    ShakeAlertLA launched on the Apple and Google Play stores on December 31, 2018, following more than a decade of research and development led by the USGS. The app has undergone extensive testing and has shown promising results, which will be improved with this rollout.

    We encourage anyone who lives, works, or plays in the Los Angeles area to download the app. Once you've downloaded the app, think about what you could do with 5, 10, 30, or even 90 seconds of warning before an earthquake. Do you have children, pets, grandparents to help drop, cover, and hold on? Do you have a business that could use the warning to keep workers and customers safe? Earthquake early warning opens up so many opportunities to be more prepared for earthquakes. 

    Ready Your LA Neighborhood (RYLAN) 

    In 2018, we created the Ready Your LA Neighborhood (RYLAN) program, which helps communities prepare for disasters together. Did you know that after a disaster, your first source of help is likely to be your neighbors? Planning with those neighbors ahead of the disaster will help you during and after a disaster. The RYLAN program brings emergency managers to your neighborhood to help you facilitiate an emergency planning session for 12-20 households on your street or block. 

    Three people review a plan during an earthquake drill

    Logo for Ready Your LA Neighborhood. Silhouette of a skyline with a variety of people standing in front of it.





    Almost 100 neighborhood RYLAN plans have already been created across the City of Los Angeles. Your neighborhood could be next! Visit or contact your bureau emergency manager to learn more and get started. 

    NotifyLA: Emergency Alerts 

    Getting information out to the public after an earthquake (or any disaster) can be a challenge. One of the best ways we can communicate with you during emergencies is the NotifyLA emergency alert system. Registering for NotifyLA gives you access to text messages, emails, and voice messages from the City of Los Angeles about threats to life and property, location of shelters, how to protect yourself, where to find preparedness and recovery resources, and more. Registering is easy, so why not do it now? Click here to sign up or text READY to 888777 on your cell phone.

    Emergency Planning

    Emergency Management Cycle Diagram

    Since Northridge, the way we plan for emergencies has changed. National standards and best practices are a core element of emergency planning in the City of Los Angeles. Key planning improvements we've made over the past 25 years include: 

    • Full rewrite of the City's Emergency Operation Plan, with hazard-specific (including earthquakes!) and funcitonal elements
    • Implemented Continutiy of Operaitons Plans for City departments, to ensure LA City government can continue to provide essential services after an earthquake
    • Whole community approach to planning that's focused on getting input from everyone our plans will impact and ensuring their needs are met and issues addressed 
    • Compliant with modern state and federal standards like the National Incident Management System and State Emergency Management System
    • Developed an award-winning emergency preparedness and planning program for faith communities 

    Supply Chain Resilience 

    The City of Los Angeles Supply Chain Resilience Initiative is an innovative, award-winning approach to public-private partnership in emergency management research and practice. After extensive research in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, EMD identified six critical sectors with essential roles in regional operations, recovery, and resilience.

    Catastrophic disasters like earthquakes can damage our ports and interrupt the supply chain nationally and globally. Earthquakes can effectively cut Los Angeles off by land, severely impacting our ability to trade and to provide commodities, food, and medical supplies to the region. That is why it is essential that we plan with partners in the global supply chain now, to create a more resilient LA. 

    The Supply Chain Resilience project was awarded the Silver Award by the Southern California Chapter of the California Emergency Services Association in September 2016 and recognized by LA Mayor Eric Garcetti in January 2017. Our partnerships with entities in these critical sectors will add a new dimension to our region's readiness and improve our resilience by enabling us to save lives, restore services, and recover after disasters. This program serves as a national model for jurisdictions building their own supply chain resilience programs. 

    Click here to learn more about the initiative and how your business can get involved.

    More Prepared Every Day

    Preparing for earthquakes is something we do every day, and we will continue to prepare until the earthquake hits. After that, we'll start preparing for the next one. This continuous cycle of preparedness ensures that we keep current with modern standards and technology, have plans that address the needs of all Angelenos, and reflect the realities of life in Los Angeles. 

    Now that you've seen how we've been preparing for earthquakes, what steps will you take to be more prepared? Let us know on our Twitter or Facebook: @ReadyLA