It is a well-known saying that those who do not learn from history, are doomed to repeat it. In the wake of the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, the City of Los Angeles, as well as those living in this earthquake-prone area, have made significant investments in developing new earthquake warning systems, enacting better building codes, and putting into practice important earthquake retrofitting programs such as the Earthquake Brace + Bolt (“EBB”) program and the Mandatory Soft-Story Retrofit program, to safeguard both properties and human lives. As such, it appears that the Los Angeles region has learned from its own earthquake history.
And yet, the question remains: to what an extent will all of those changes actually make a difference, when “The Big One” hits our region.
Turkey’s Catastrophic Earthquakes
As most of our readers already know, on February 6, 2023, a catastrophic 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck southern and central Turkey, as well as northern and western Syria. Another, devastating 7.7 earthquake occurred nine hours later, and both were followed by over 2,100 aftershocks. The damage caused by these quakes was severe and widespread. Many thousands of buildings collapsed in the affected areas and, at latest count, over 40,000 fatalities and many more injuries were reported. Turkey’s quakes and the damage they have done, reinforce our own earthquake anxieties and makes us wonder: what can our own quake-prone City of Los Angeles learn from the horrific destruction of lives and property in Turkey?
- First, it’s important to note that cataclysmic earthquakes the size of the ones that just happened in Turkey, can, and will, happen here in Los Angeles. There is no getting around this important fact: an earthquake as large as the one that just happened in Turkey will happen here, one day in the future. Moreover, it is not improbable that we will also have one mega quake after another, in short succession, as Turkey just did! A mega quake that ruptures our own San Andreas fault could also trigger major aftershocks for days!
- Second, it’s important to understand that the damage caused by a mega earthquake in our own Los Angeles region would be catastrophic. The U.S. Geological Survey report called “The ShakeOut” states that a 7.8 magnitude quake on the San Andreas fault could cause the death of 1,800 people, with 50,000 additional injuries. The financial damage could cost up to $200 billion, with communications networks, including Internet and cell phone service, disrupted for days, or longer.Moreover, in a recent interview to CBS News, renowned seismologist Dr. Lucy Jones opined that 1% of all the buildings in Los Angeles would totally collapse following an earthquake such as that one that just happened in Turkey. Moreover, another 10% would be so badly damaged that they would have to be torn down, and another 40% would be damaged enough that they won’t be used after the earthquake. That means the potential loss of over 50% of all the buildings in Los Angeles!
- Third, it appears from news reports that the epic devastation in Turkey was aggravated by shoddy and corrupt building practices, as well as rarely-enforced engineering standards and codes. Here in Los Angeles, construction practices are perhaps better than in Turkey, and yet the question still remains: will our buildings withstand a “Mega Quake”? And yes, in Los Angeles and many of its surrounding cities, we have a mandatory retrofit programs for seismically vulnerable buildings, and yet, have all vulnerable buildings been retrofitted? Was all the retrofitting work done by reputable, competent builders?
- Fourth, have commercial property owners and homeowners really done all they could do to prepare for the next “Big One”? Preparing means something.
- Retrofitting weak and older commercial buildings for better protection.
- Bolting residential homes to their foundations.
- Creating emergency earthquake kits and keeping them near.
- Making a plan with family and friends for what to do when a quake hits.
- Downloading the MyShake Earthquake Warning App, that can alert on a magnitude 5.0 or greater earthquake.
There’s a lot that Los Angelinos can do to prepare for an earthquake, and this is the time to do it!
Take note: there remains an urgent need to retrofit homes and businesses in Los Angeles and safeguard them from earthquake damage. The professionals at Weinstein Construction want to help you be prepared and have peace of mind when the next earthquake hits! Call us now to discuss or schedule a free inspection of your home or Soft-Story commercial structure. We are standing by at (800) 862-6582.
Los Angeles Times, “Deadly warnings for California from Turkey earthquakes: What to learn from devastation”, Updated, February 13, 2023.
CBS News, “Turkey-level disaster is possible in California, renowned seismologist says”, February 16, 2023.