Let’s just bug out and call it even, OK?

The closest I’d ever come to an earthquake was a simulation at the Science Museum, where you stood in the middle of a mock up kitchen circa 1960 that was mounted on a gimbal and would shake and shimmy in all directions. Sadly, I think this entertaining explanation of plate tectonics has long since vanished.

So when I was sitting in Nikki’s bar on Market Street in Venice last Friday at about 8:15pm and a load-laden dump truck thundered past outside causing the ground to shake and the glasses on the shelves to knock against each other I thought nothing of it. Except half a second later I suddenly remembered the street outside was a dead end and definitely not the kind of road that has heavy-duty traffic like that on it. At the same time, the bar staff shouted, “Hey! Did you feel that?!”

It turned out to be a 3.2 magnitude event with an epicentre 1km east-south-east of Marina del Rey, basically about a mile and half away from where I was nursing a pint of lite beer.

Later on, once I had returned to Thornton Avenue, where my apartment is, conversation was still flowing in the building’s courtyard as it often does on a Friday night. I made myself a Hendricks and tonic and joined the debate downstairs. It wasn’t long before the subject of that evening’s earthquake came up.

A few years ago a friend of mine, Chris – who lives in San Diego and is an ex-US Air Force serviceman – was commentating on Facebook, or some such social media, that he was preparing his new Bugout Bag, shopping around for the right one and the equipment that it would contain. I’d never heard of this expression before, but knew instantly what a bugout bag would be. (A backpack-type bag that remains ready to be grabbed in an emergency and is full of survival equipment and supplies.) I wrote a response to his post and generally made fun of him and this typical, nonsensical American activity. I’ve watched enough episodes of Doomsday Preppers on National Geographic to know that most of these sorts of people have watched way too many movies about the end of the world and/or are probably pro-NRA.

Boy, was I wrong.

Evidently, this is a well known item of ownership here in the US, since everyone from my building that was enjoying that late-night drink on Friday looked at me cold faced and perfectly serious when I asked, laughing as I did so, whether anyone here had anything as ridiculous as a bugout bag.

“Oh yes,” said one.
“Me too,” said another.
“Of course,” said yet another.

Further evidence can be found on Amazon – if you search for ‘bugout bag’ it brings up pages of military-issue backpacks and survival kits.

So, if I do end up staying here in the US, then clearly I’m going to need a bugout bag.

[Tries very hard to conceal an enormous, happy grin]

Which makes perfect sense here in Los Angeles, since this city of many millions of people – 10 million in LA County alone – lies just a few short miles from the San Andreas Fault. However, it’s not actually this fault that seems to be providing all the terror/excitement at the moment.

Los Angeles fault lines

The most recent LA quakes have been because of movement in the Whittier Fault.  Image: JPL

The last major earthquake here was in January 1994. Centered in Northridge in the San Fernando Valley, it had a magnitude of 6.7 and duration of approximately 20 seconds. It happened at 4:40am so thankfully most of the freeways were empty.

Then, yesterday there was another quake here. At about 6:30am the ground shook for about six or seven seconds and measured 4.4 in magnitude. [Note: no one seems to say ‘Richter Scale’ anymore – it’s a bit too retro.]

This one was centered in Beverly Hills and the internet practically exploded with tweets and updates and clips of early morning daytime TV presenters freaking out live on air as the studio sets shook around them. Google it, it’s quite entertaining.

But all this recent talk of tremors has inevitably re-raised the point that’s not “if” but rather a case of “when”. And depending on who you ask, some say that lots of little quakes are a good thing since it’s meant to relieve the pressure building up deep underground and others utterly disagree and say instead that lots of small shakes are an indication that something much bigger is on its way.

If you visit earthquaketrack.com, or follow it on Twitter, you’ll realise just how many earthquakes there are each week, albeit teeny-tiny ones that you’d never notice, but still.

Plus of course I live in a prime tsunami zone.

The United States Geological Survey recently undertook a study as part of National Tsunami Preparedness Week and, using a magnitude 9.2 Alaskan earthquake that struck 50 years ago and caused California’s largest-recorded tsunami event, they concluded that those living in low-lying areas like Huntington Beach and Venice Beach were most at risk.

Guess I should include some inflatable armbands in that bag. And, according to helpful info provided by the City of Los Angeles, bottles of water, breathing masks, first aid kit, flashlight, sleeping bag, duct tape and batteries.

Follow Londoner in LA on Twitter at @londonerinla