From Where We Are

Prepare for trouble, if the earthquakes double!

For National Preparedness Month, we talked to the USC Emergency Planning Team about how non-Californian students can prepare for earthquakes and wildfires.

Thousands of USC students are living in California for the first time in their lives. And it’s possible that they’ve never experienced an earthquake or wildfire, both hallmarks of the California experience. September is National Preparedness Month. Alexandra Applegate reports how students can prepare... just in case.


In the heart of Southern California, USC is at risk of earthquakes, wildfires, floods and landslides. Even now, a handful of wildfires are burning throughout the state.

According to data on USC’s class of 2024, students’ most common home states—excluding California—were New York, Texas, Illinois, Washington, New Jersey and Florida. Other than Washington, none of those states experience severe wildfires or earthquakes like California.

Some students, like freshman Damaris Ortega, are first-time Californians and have never experienced an earthquake or wildfire.

I’m from a bordertown in Texas and I would panic and freak out and be like, “Ah, what’s happening?” because I’ve never experienced one.

Steven Goldfarb, director of fire safety, emergency planning and business continuity at USC, works to help the university prepare for and anticipate emergencies or natural disasters. The Emergency Planning team coordinates emergency preparedness efforts at USC through plans, programs and training.

The University has an all-hazard emergency response plan and we work with our staff, with specialized response teams and departments year round to develop emergency response plans, to do training, to do exercises for all different types of scenarios. We have online, on the main website, there are procedures specifically for students in multiple languages. In addition to that, we have an emergency preparedness video that goes over various emergency procedures, including earthquakes, how to call for help and what to expect.

USC also participates in an international earthquake drill every October called the Great ShakeOut. The Emergency Planning team sends emergency procedures to all students, faculty and staff so everyone on campus can practice Drop, Cover and Hold-On.

When the earth starts shaking, you stop wherever you are, drop down to the ground, crawl under a desk or table and protect the back of your head and neck. If necessary, you can hold onto whatever you’re under in case it starts moving. And you stay there until the earthquake stops. If you’re perhaps a person in a wheelchair, they can go to the side of the wall, lock their wheelchair in place and protect their head and neck as well.

This year’s Great ShakeOut is on October 21 at 10:21 A-M.

Whether you’re a California native or not, being prepared could make all the difference.

The university has a lot of great plans in place to take care of our students but also there’s a big responsibility personally. Because the bottom line is that when it does happen, you want to be able to react to it in the appropriate way.

Anyone can visit for more tips and resources to stay prepared. For Annenberg Media, I’m Alexandra Applegate.