My family and I love to visit Disneyland in Anaheim, California. But since it’s in California, we’ve wondered is Disneyland earthquake proof?
Here’s what I uncovered in looking into it:
Since Disneyland opened in 1955, there have been 13 earthquakes of 5.0 or higher in magnitude. However, due to strict California building codes and the earthquake preparedness procedures Disneyland follows, no significant damage or injuries have ever been reported at Disneyland due to an earthquake.
But there’s more to know about earthquake safety tips, the 2 latest quakes in 2019, the best places to be at Disneyland in the event of a quake, and when the last time Disneyland actually was damaged in a quake.
So let’s keep reading!
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What is Anaheim’s earthquake risk?
Anaheim California is where Disneyland, the very first of the Disney theme parks, is located.
Anaheim is basically a suburb of Los Angeles, so it’s right in the epicenter of earthquake country. According to the California Earthquake Authority, there are:
- 500 active faults in California
- 15,700 faults total in all of California
- There is a greater than 99% chance of an earthquake of 6.7 or greater in this area within the next 30 years
- Most Californians live within 30 miles of an active fault
Now to be fair to Anaheim, the risk of a major quake is actually a little bit less than California as a whole. Anaheim has a 75% chance of an earthquake measuring a 7 or greater, compared to 99% of the rest of the state.
There are about 100 active faults in the Orange County area which is the county where Anaheim and Disneyland are located.
The San Andreas fault is the largest running through the area and has caused earthquakes of up to an 8 on the Richter scale. Unfortunately, earthquakes in this area can also lead both to landslides and increased tsunami risk in areas closer to the coast.
Disneyland is only 157 feet above sea level and 20 miles from the ocean.
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Was Disneyland damaged by the 2 earthquakes in July 2019?
Shortly after I posted this article originally in June 2019, we had 2 big quakes in Southern California.
There was a 6.4 magnitude earthquake on July 4th, 2019. That was the strongest quake in Southern California since 1999. Luckily, for Disneyland, the quake was centered in the Mojave Desert about 150 miles northeast from the Los Angeles area.
The town that was hardest hit by that quake was the town of Ridgecrest which declared a state of emergency after a number of fires sparked multiple evacuations, including the Ridgecrest Regional Hospital.
Then just 1 day later, on July 5th, 2019, a 7.1 earthquake rocked the Southern California area centered around the same fault line that runs through Ridgecrest.
Governor Gavin Newsom also declared a state of emergency for San Bernadino and Kern Counties.
To date, no fatalities have been reported, although there have been multiple minor injuries and fires due to ruptured gas lines. Many roads experienced cracks in the pavement as well.
Many retailers experienced broken bottles due to shaking shelves and many Ridgecrest residents went without power.
In terms of how the quakes affected Disneyland, their standard operating procedure for earthquakes is to temporarily stop all rides until safety crews can personally evaluate each one. That meant thousands were safely escorted off the newly opened Millenium Falcon at the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge park, along with the monorail system and countless other rides and rollercoasters.
Again, there were no serious injuries reported, and no serious damage to any of the rides or attractions.
Was there an earthquake at Disneyland in 2018?
Yes, is the short answer.
Thursday, April 5th of 2018 at 12:30 pm saw an earthquake of 5.3 on the Richter scale hit Southern California. It was actually the largest quake to hit Southern California since a 4.4 magnitude quake in 2014.
The good news for Disneyland is that the quake’s epicenter was actually about 90 miles west of Los Angeles, off the coast of California near Santa Cruz Island.
It was, however, felt at Disneyland and as far inland as Bakersfield.
It’s worth noting, however, that LA gets an earthquake of this size about once a year, according to the Southern California Earthquake Center at USC.
So it’s not unusual, nor is it really of major concern. There were also no injuries or damage reported.
Still not convinced? No problem! Just head over to sunny Florida and check out Walt Disney World; no earthquakes!
If you do head to Disney World, they use a completely different Fast Pass system than Disneyland, so you’ll want to check out my Ultimate Guide to Disney World’s FastPass+ System (click to read now on my site).
How many earthquakes have hit Anaheim since Disneyland first opened?
The most recent quake, aside from the ones in July 2019, was actually earlier in 2019.
That quake occurred Wednesday, April 3rd of 2019 and measured 3.6 on the Richter scale. No injuries were reported and the quake’s epicenter was the Anaheim Hills which is about 10 miles from Disneyland.
But over the years, there have actually been thousands of small quakes.
To give you an example, Disneyland actually sees over 500 quakes a year that register at least 1.5 on the Richter scale.
Here are a few years of noteworthy quakes in the Disneyland area:
- 4.0 quakes – 2 quakes since 2018
- 5.0 quakes – 2 quakes since 2014
- 6.0 quakes – 6 quakes since 1992
- 7.0 quakes – 5 quakes since 1952 (Disneyland opened in 1955)
- 8.0+ quakes – none
So, there have been 13 quakes 5.0 or higher since Disneyland opened on July 17, 1955.
When was the last time an earthquake damaged Disneyland?
In short, Disneyland has never been significantly damaged by an earthquake since it opened in 1955.
By no means does that mean it will never be, but as they say; there’s no better predictor of future behavior than past behavior.
In other words, Disneyland is incredibly safe and in the unlikely event you are there when a larger quake happens, the chances are quite good that you will not be injured in any way.
California has very strict building codes designed with earthquakes in mind since they are so prevalent.
Even though the original Disneyland was built in 1955, virtually all of the rides and attractions have been updated significantly since then and with each update come safety revisions.
The worst quakes Disneyland has had since opening in 1955, aside from the 2 recent July 2019 quakes, were:
- April 4th, 2010 – 7.2 magnitude
- Oct 16th, 1999 – 7.1 magnitude
- Jan 17th, 1994 – 6.7 magnitude
- June 28th, 1992 – 7.3 magnitude
- Feb 9th, 1971 – 6.6 magnitude
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After all, while all 6 Disney parks are similar, they vary in size considerably and the one that’s biggest might not be the one you think it is!
Where is the best place to go in Disneyland in the event of an earthquake?
Remember that the average earthquake only lasts between 10-30 seconds.
In most cases, and I lived in Northern California for almost a decade, you don’t even realize an earthquake is happening until it’s done.
I couldn’t tell you how many times I felt a quake but thought maybe a large truck was driving by or that something else was causing the minor vibration I was feeling or hearing.
In most cases, cast members, who are all trained by Disney in earthquake preparedness, will direct you to an interior location nearby. That may be a shop, but it could also be a backstage area normally reserved for employees only.
They will advise you to remain there even after the initial quake is done.
Remember that sometimes dozens of smaller aftershocks can happen sometimes minutes following the initial earthquake. Those are, however, typically much smaller in magnitude than the original quake.
Once given the all clear, unless instructed by a cast member, don’t plan to leave the park by car. The parking lot will be a zoo and could potentially take you hours to get out of.
Walk to Downtown Disney, or if your hotel is walking distance, you can always return there too.
But unless it was a really major quake, chances are the rides and attractions will resume within 30 minutes to 1 hour and restaurants and snack areas will re-open much faster if they even close at all.
What happens if an earthquake happens when you’re on a ride at Disneyland?
In the fairly unlikely event that you are on a ride at Disneyland when an earthquake hits, don’t panic.
Most likely if it’s a large enough and long enough quake the ride will stop.
Many of the rides at Disneyland these days, while they have a manual operator, are largely run by computers. There are sensors to detect problems, such as if someone gets off a ride during the ride, and yes; if excess motion occurs due to an earthquake.
So in the event of a major-ish quake, most likely those sensors will shut the ride down automatically. Then safety lights will come on (they should work even in the event of a power outage).
When a ride shuts down, Disneyland’s next step is to send their employees to help assist those riders in safely getting off the ride. So stay put!
Don’t ever try and get off a ride that has stopped unless instructed by a Disney cast member or employee. Unless it was a really large quake, most likely the ride will simply resume after a few minutes and you’ll receive updates over the speakers.
Once everyone is safely off the ride, Disneyland will close all attractions temporarily following an earthquake so their crews can personally inspect each one for possible damage.
You will not, however, have to leave the park unless the quake was so big and damaged so many buildings that it became a safety concern. But that is extremely unlikely.
If you are simply waiting in line, most likely you will be allowed to remain in line, but there’s no guarantee how long it will take for a worker to inspect the ride and certify it ready to re-open.
While Disneyland does have 23,000 cast members and workers in addition to about 3,500 contracted workers, there are still a lot of rides to look at and a lot of ground to cover.
In all likelihood, they won’t go to the most popular rides first, but the ones with the biggest potential safety concerns like roller coasters.
Did I cover all you wanted to know about whether Disneyland is earthquake proof?
In this article, we took a quick look at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, and whether or not it’s prone to earthquakes.
After all, California is one of the most active places in the world for earthquakes, and millions of people visit Disneyland every year. So it’s a pretty valid question.
We looked at the history of earthquake damage at the park, the 2 recent July 2019 quakes, the best places to be at the park in the event of a quake, and the overall risk of the Anaheim area in general.
Have you ever been in an earthquake?