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Instructions for “San Andreas” Film Reflection

San Andreas (2015), directed by Brad Peyton, is a film that focuses mainly on the aftermath of a massive earthquake that occurred in California. The notorious San Andreas fault triggers an earthquake with a magnitude of 9. The earthquake causes cracks on the earth’s surface, and buildings in the area start to crumble. One of the main aftermaths of the earthquake was a tsunami that further wreaked havoc in the area, something that resulted in the loss of lives and further collapsing of tall buildings in the area.

Most of the predicaments surrounding the occurrence of the tsunami in the film are not scientifically accurate. The earthquake that occurs in California in the film does not occur underwater (Peyton 12:16-14:26). It is important to note that underwater earthquakes trigger tsunamis. They are generated from large and shallow earthquakes that have a fault line that is near the ocean line. This type of earthquake only takes place in areas that are characterized by tectonic subduction. These are usually along tectonic boundaries with seismicity that are caused by tectonic plates. The movement of these tectonic plates past each other is the main reason behind the large earthquakes that displace large areas of the ocean floor to more kilometers than it is supposed to be in this context. It is important to note that the fault formed as a result of this displacement is what disturbs the ocean’s surface and displaces water, leading to the creation of destructive tsunami waves. The waves travel long distances and destroy anything in their path as they move. Typically, the fault depicted in the film cannot generate a tsunami because it is clearly on land.

The tsunami shown in the Bay Area has been completely exaggerated and is not scientifically accurate. The tsunami that would take place in such an area would be small and localized, not as it is shown in the film. The maximum size of which the tsunami should have taken place is just a few meters, which could only have occurred if the earthquake had triggered offshore slides. Based on the film, the San Andreas system has two plates sliding each other, which makes it a strike-slip. This effect reveals an offset on the fault as it is horizontal and not vertical. Tsunamis can only occur when the vertical motion of the seafloor causes the fault.

Nevertheless, there appears to be an error in the scene in central California. The fault in the film is placed on the left. However, the motion on the fault should be right lateral in the entire length of the fault. Thus, a local tsunami can be generated on the California coast only if the shaking depicted in the film in the San Andrea fault generates underwater landslides.

The characteristics of tsunamis have been dramatically depicted in the film, making them scientifically inaccurate. One of these characteristics is the plunging breaker shown in the film. There is no way a plunging breaker of that size could be formed in shallow water near the California coast (Peyton 31:36). Moreover, the water levels cannot stay in place, continue to spin, and eventually go back to the right sea level at the end. Also, tsunamis have multiple long waves, and the first wave is not always the largest, as shown in the film. The forces caused by the earthquake near an ocean floor are what create waves that radiate outwards before moving in all directions, which is away from their source. Thus, the tsunami in this film appeared to be sudden and quickly rose above the sea level of the San Andreas water, which is not scientifically accurate.

The scene where the public is made aware of the earthquake in a clear, concise manner was done well in the film. Earthquakes can occur without warnings. Therefore, it is the work of the seismologist to discover the possibility of it occurring and report it for the sake of issuing the information on time warming to residents for fast evacuation. Dr. Lawrence, in the film, predicted the earthquakes and succeeded in reporting the situation to the government to issue a warning to San Francisco about the impending earthquakes (Peyton, 9:03-10:38). The government uses this information to urge the citizens to flee the Bay area and assist in the evacuation process using their first responders. The radio and television are the main communication tools used in the film. Also, the level of the residents’ preparedness for the disaster is another lesson after they are made aware of the disaster that is about to occur in the region. First responders are also placed on the scene to direct the traffic for it to flow smoothly during the evacuation process.

Another level of preparedness observed through the film is the community’s resilience to the earthquakes. The people of the region are well-informed about earthquakes based on the risks that they take when they happen. Community resilience is crucial as it is what ensures that the community recovers quickly after a natural disaster occurs. This capability helps people to make sound decisions during disasters such as earthquakes. Ray, who is a helicopter rescue pilot, is one of the characters in the film who makes reliable decisions regarding earthquakes. This is most likely because he is a trained first responder and the lead character in the film. He is one of the characters who urge people to take cover and stray away from potential hazards (Peyton 28:00-29:00). In addition, Ray is one of the first people to notice signs of the tsunami and manages to pass through the tsunami waves before it crests successfully.

Preventing earthquakes is hard, but with proper preparation, people can survive and reduce losses. The film’s first responders were efficient when the earthquake occurred. One thing that I learned is that when a disaster happens, there will be many emergency personnel on the scene to help people and ensure that everyone within the vicinity is safe. Therefore, following the steps I observed in the film will help me to recognize police and firefighters, as well as medical staff, as the first responders to a disaster. Also, I can now understand the importance of having a disaster plan to help me when the government issues information for a possible earthquake. Families had emergency supplies stored for when a disaster based on one scene where we could see a parent and child pack them in their backpacks for the sake of the emergency. Also, in one scene, there is a lesson about minimizing financial hardship when we are shown a couple discussing financial preparedness. Also, I now know that when an earthquake happens, I must drop, shelter myself, and hold on to something, as seen in the scene where a family enters under a table to shield themselves during the earthquake.

Works Cited

Peyton, Brad. San Andreas. New Line Cinema, Village Roadshow Pictures, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Flynn Picture Company and Seven Bucks Productions, 2015.


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