Credit: ABC News PHOTO: Waves crash against the seawall as Hurricane Irma slammed Fajardo, Puerto Rico,


The devastation is enormous. The pictures are dramatic and painful to see. The cost to all of us is inestimable at this time. Harvey tore through Houston leaving no building unscathed. Irma left her mark on at least the lower third of Florida and it remains to be seen what will remain.

Natural disasters like these are becoming more commonplace, at least in modern history. It’s hard to tell if there is a historical precedent for this level of weather upset – although it is rather likely in some fashion. The geologists can tell when there were great floods or droughts in the timeline of the planet, and they know that spikes have certainly happened before.

For the people of Texas and Florida, this latest batch of catastrophic weather means that they will be rebuilding, and hopefully they will be planning for it with a potential repeat in their future. I remember last year being in Naples Florida and noticing the street signals were on enormous steel arms that were secured into the ground with much greater security tan we see here. I mentioned it to my friend and he said it was all part of hurricane preparedness.

While we do not have the regular assault of hurricanes or typhoons, we have the joys of earthquakes, fires and drought. Thankfully we have an active and proactive fire department so that our city is not likely to encounter a massive fire ala the Chicago Union Stock Yards Fire of 1910 which cost the lives of 24 firefighters. And droughts are annoying but not really likely to cause mass catastrophe.

Earthquakes though – those suckers will cause mass damage and disruption. We need to be prepared for them because we don’t get days or even hours of warning. They strike at random, without warning and are often in the early morning hours.

I remember the 1994 Northridge earthquake. It was not pretty. The good news is that the actual quaking lasts for a very short duration, the bad news is the clean up and after effects take years to recover.

As a city we have master plans for disaster preparedness. I’m sure that the fire/police and other public services have regular meetings to discuss worst case scenarios and their planned responses for both immediate security of life and property and then long term responses.

But what do you have that will take you and your family through the first 48 hours of an earthquake? Do you know what you will need? Do you anticipate the services that will be down and unavailable? Are you prepared for medical issues? Not just the first aid type of bandages and splints, but medicines that you need daily.

It’s not a lot of fun to think about how an earthquake can destroy your home, crush your business and put you on the street, but in order to survive and thrive, we need to think about these issues.

Survival of an earthquake is dependent upon knowing where is a safe spot to secure yourself for the duration of the temblor. Yes, the old doorframe was considered safe, but the latest research and thinking is to find a space that will be triangulated. The space created when a bookshelf falls over onto a desk and there is a triangle created that will protect you from falling ceiling pieces. The space next to a solid piece of furniture is often considered a better safer place to ride out the rolling.

Having enough supplies on hand to provide for you family when the gas has been shut and probably the electricity is out is an important part of pre-planning. No one wants to live on Meals Ready To Eat (MREs) but if you’ve got nothing else…they’ll do. You don’t want to be opening your refrigerator and freezer often if there is no electricity to operate it. You want the contents to remain cool as long as possible.

Hygiene issues also should be planned. Showering and toileting could be problematic for a short period so what’s your plan? Pets also need to be considered, don’t forget they need water and food as well.

The tragedies of Harvey and Irma are very real and I’m not making light of them. I’d encourage people to donate to the charity of their choice, but the lessons to be learned from these catastrophes are lost if we don’t take a moment to consider what our own risks are, and plan for them.

David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at or 310/664-9969.You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra