Los Angeles is prone to many natural and man-made threats. Los Angeles is particularly vulnerable to the destructive affects wildfires, flooding, mudslides and earthquakes. Because of the many threats that Los Angeles faces, the importance of readiness as a city and for residents cannot be overstated. Part of disaster preparedness is being aware of the kinds of hazards and disasters you might be subject to living in as a Los Angeles resident. Here’s a list.
EarthquakesU.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is the leading agency that provides the public and policymakers with a clear understanding of natural hazards and provides comprehensive real-time earthquake monitoring.
The many fault systems running throughout the Los Angeles area can lead to earthquakes of all types and sizes. Many of the buildings have been retrofitted to withstand severe shaking, but you could still face many hazards and dangers.
- Southern California has about 10,000 earthquakes each year, though most are so small that they are never felt.
- Large earthquakes create an aftershock sequence that can produce additional earthquakes for many months.
- Earthquakes can occur in cold, hot, rainy or dry weather; there is no such thing as “earthquake weather.”
- The San Andreas Fault zone stretches for 800 miles.
- Most earthquakes occur less than 50 miles below the Earth’s surface.
- Only four states - Florida, Iowa, North Dakota and Wisconsin - have not had earthquakes in the past 30 years.
Residential fires are the third-leading cause of accidental death in the home, with yearly property losses reaching billions of dollars. Cooking, careless smoking, arson and faulty heating are often the cause of fires in the home. Many fire-related deaths and damages are avoidable with a proper smoke alarm system or residential sprinklers. Check the smoke alarms in your home every few months to make sure they are working properly.
One of the most important functions for the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) is fire prevention. This includes both enforcement and education programs. LAFD inspectors work with homeowners and business executives to ensure that the LAFD Fire Code is followed. These programs have a proven track record relative to reducing the losses from fire.
Unpredictable wind conditions in Los Angeles can cause dense brush and dry hillsides and canyons. These areas are prone to bursting quickly into flames, starting deadly wildfires that are also known as brush fires. These fires can move at incredible speeds and their heat can quickly rise to thousands of degrees. One of the best ways to keep these fires a safe distance from your home is to make sure that nearby brush is cleared away, according to city and county regulations. All homes should be equipped with properly maintained smoke detectors and a fire extinguisher that you have been trained to use.
- Each year, fire kills more Americans than all other natural disasters combined.
- Careless smoking is the leading cause of fire-related deaths.
- Cooking is the major cause of home fires in the U.S.
- About 2 million fires are reported each year, though thousands more go unreported.
- Wildfires are most common in the summer, fall and during droughts when branches, leaves and other materials dry out, leaving them susceptible to eerily catching fire.
Severe Weather and Flooding
- Floods can occur at any time, though many happen after heavy spring rains, tropical storms and the melting of winter snow.
- Just six inches of rapidly moving flood water can knock a person down. It only takes two feet of water to float a large vehicle.
- Floods can be slow or fast rising but most develop over a period of days.
- Mudslides can easily travel faster than 10 miles per hour
- Flash floods can turn a calm landscape into a raging river in a matter of minutes.
- Most flash floods are caused by slow-moving thunderstorms, hurricanes or tropical storms, but also by dam or levee failures.
- Flash floods can move boulders, rip out trees, knock down bridges and destroy buildings.
- Walls of water, often filled with debris, can reach up to 20 feet.
- If you receive a warning or are caught in a flash flood, move immediately to higher ground.
The blazing sun can become incredibly hot in Los Angeles, especially during summer days. Even indoors, temperatures can be just as uncomfortable if you don't have air conditioning or strong fans blowing cool air. For most of us, it’s unpleasant. For others, it can be deadly.
- Approximately 400 people die in the U.S. each year from weather-related heat, and many more die from health conditions made worse by the rising temperatures.
- Those at greatest risk for heat-related illness include infants and small children, the elderly, people who are overweight and those who take certain medications.
- During hot weather, people should drink a lot of liquid – up to four 16-ounce glasses per hour if exercising in the heat.
- Drinking alcoholic beverages in unusually hot weather can lead to heat-related illnesses.
- Extreme cold can cause the body’s temperature to lower dramatically, causing hypothermia and even death. Stay warm with extra clothing and blankets.
- Space heaters can cause fires during winter and should be kept at least three feet from drapes and furniture.
- Areas with the mildest winters normally have higher death rates from cold than those with colder winters, primarily because people do not prepare properly and they have poor information.
- Landslides occur in all 50 states of the U.S., though the most common areas are those with mountainous terrain such as California.
- Landslides in this country result in costs of more than $4 billion annually.
- Between 25 and 50 people are killed by landslides in the U.S. each year.
- Landslides cause tremendous damage to the natural environment and also impact agricultural productivity.
- One of Southern California’s best-known landslides in recent history occurred on March 4, 1995, in La Conchita, California, along the Ventura County coast.
- Landslides can be activated by human factors such as deforestation (removal of trees and vegetations), poor irrigation, water leakage from utilities, mining activities, improper excavation of a slope and hillside construction, among others.
Hurricanes are powerful tropical storms that form in the southern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and the eastern Pacific Ocean. They carry high winds and heavy rain that can be dangerous. Powered by heat from the sea, they are steered erratically by the easterly trade winds and the temperate westerly winds, as well as by their own energy. As they move ashore, they bring with them a storm surge of ocean water along the coastline, high winds, tornadoes, torrential rains and flooding. Many of these remain over the ocean with little or no impact on the continental United States. However, about five hurricanes strike the United States coastline every three years. Of these five, two will be major hurricanes measuring a category 3 or higher (defined as having winds above 111 miles per hour) on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. These storms can end up costing our nation millions, if not billions, of dollars in damages. It is important to follow the course of the storm to know whether to evacuate or remain inside to wait for it to pass. Here are a few facts you should know.
- Hurricanes feature severe winds of at least 74 miles per hour, usually accompanied by heavy rains. This powerful combination can damage buildings, trees and cars.
- A hurricane can extend for hundreds of miles across, from end to end.
- The official hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, but these storms can occur at any time of the year.
- Then a hurricane hits land, its wind speed usually weakens, but the resulting storm surge can raise ocean levels by several feet.
- The worst hurricane in U.S. history roared across Galveston Island, TX., on September 8, 1900, killing 8,000 people.
- Whirling tornado winds can reach 300 miles per hour.
- The storm’s path of damage can extend one mile wide and up to 50 miles long.
- Tornados normally appear near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm, so it is not unusual to see clear blue skies behind a tornado.
- Tornados known as waterspouts can form over large bodies of water.
- Peak tornado season is from March through May in the southern states, and from late spring to early summer in the northern states.
- A tsunami includes a series of waves, sometimes increasing in size.
- Tsunamis can move at a very fast rate of speed.
- Sometimes a tsunami causes water near the shore to recede initially, exposing the ocean floor.
- Tsunami wave activity can move boats and other large debris hundreds of feet inland and demolish houses.
- Tsunami danger can last for several hours after the first wave hits.
- The Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 killed more than 150,000 people and left millions homeless.
To better understand your tsunami risk and how to respond or evacuate if a Tsumami Warning is issued, see our
- Create fear among the public
- Try to convince citizens that their government is powerless to prevent the violence
- Get immediate publicity for their causes
Acts of terrorism can manifest themselves in the form of assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings, bomb scares and bombings, cyber attacks (computer-based crimes), the use of chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological weapons and threats of terrorism itself.
Effective April 2011, the National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS), replaced the color-coded Homeland Security Advisory System (HSAS). This new system will more effectively communicate information about terrorist threats by providing timely, detailed information to the public, government agencies, first responders, the private sector and airports and other transportation hubs.
The NTAS recognizes that Americans all share responsibility for the nation's security, and should always be aware of the heightened risk of a terrorist attack in the United States and what they should do.
The new alert system starts with the premise that the U.S. is at an elevated risk for attack. If intelligence officials determine that the threat rises above that baseline, the public will be notified that there is an elevated risk of attack using Facebook, Twitter or through email subscriber alerts.
Register for alerts and get more information about how this new system will operate at www.dhs.gov/files/programs/ntas.shtm. There you will also find:
- NTAS Public Guide
- NTAS Frequently Asked Questions
- Sample NTAS Alert
Cybercrime is a criminal activity committed on the Internet. This is a broad term that describes everything from electronic hacking to computer attacks that cause electronic commerce sites to lose money. Cybercrimes can be basically divided into three major categories:
- Cybercrimes against persons: These include various crimes such as the transmission of child-pornography and the harassment of an individual with the use of a computer, such as via email. The trafficking, distribution, posting, and dissemination of obscene material including pornography and indecent exposure, constitutes one of the most important cybercrimes known today
- Cybercrimes against property: Crimes include computer vandalism and the transmission of harmful programs.
- Cybercrimes against the government: These are crimes committed by individuals and groups to threaten international governments and subsequently terrorize the citizens of a country. This crime manifests itself into terrorism when an individual breaks into a government or military-maintained website.
Public health threats are events and disasters that spread in communities through the air, water supply and food chain and can also spread following human and animal contact. Public health threats are caused by disease outbreaks, natural disasters, hazardous accidents and terrorist attacks.
There are also many things in our environment that can be harmful such as chemicals, fumes, viruses and bacteria. However, when these substances reach a threshold considered unsafe, they become urgent public health threats. In these cases, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health will issue an advisory instructing residents of steps and precautions they can take to protect their health and safety. Visit their site at www.publichealth.lacounty.gov.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has a Poison Control Hotline at (800) 222-1222 if you have specific questions about hazardous substances in the home.