Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Los Angeles Unveils Earthquake Retrofit & Resilience Plan


Resilient By Design PDF



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Last December, in Dr. Lucy Jones: `Imagine America Without Los Angeles’, we looked at a presentation given by noted seismologist Dr. Jones at the  annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (held  in San Francisco),  that emphasized that should the `big one’ hit Southern California, we could literally `lose’ Los Angeles.


Dr. Jones warned that the damage could be far greater, and last much longer, than most people believe.  While 99 out of 100 modern buildings might remain standing, the (often buried) infrastructure needed to provide water, electricity, internet connectivity, and natural gasthe lifeblood -  to the region could be devastated (see CBS News report).


Similarly, last year in California Quakes : Concrete Concerns, we looked at a report citing the vulnerability of more than 1,000 older concrete buildings in Los Angeles, many of which could collapse during a strong earthquake.

The authors (Rong-Gong Lin II, Rosanna Xia and Doug Smith) stated that the city has been aware of the dangers for decades, but has refused to require building owners to retrofit their properties for earthquake safety, despite the fact that the area is believed `overdue’ for a major earthquake.


While the timing of the next big quake in Southern California is unknown, in 2010 (see Revised Risk Of `The Big One’ Along San Andreas Fault) we looked at a study that suggested that Southern California may be more overdue for another major quake than previously thought.


The following year, in  Estimating The Economic Impact Of A San Andreas Quake, we looked at a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that endeavored to gauge the crippling impact that a highly feasible 7.8 magnitude Southern California earthquake would have on jobs and local businesses.


Download PDF file

A quake of this magnitude, they estimate, could affect  430,000 businesses and 4.5 million workers and deliver a devastating – and prolonged – blow to the local and national economy.


Yesterday the Mayor of Los Angeles, along with Dr. Lucy Jones, unveiled a 126 page plan called Resilient By Design that, among other things, seeks to address  four primary areas of seismic vulnerability


  • Pre-1980 `non-ductile reinforced concrete’ buildings
  • Pre-1980 `soft-first-story’ buildings
  • Water system infrastructure (including impact on Firefighting capability)
  • Telecommunications Infrastructure


In addition to finding a `quake-resilient’ way to deliver water to firefighters after an earthquake, and building a `solar-powered, city-wide WiFi network’ to keep the city connected after a disaster, the plan calls for major retrofits of thousands of existing vulnerable buildings to prevent their collapse.


Pre-1980 wooden soft-first story buildings retrofits would have to take place within five years while mandatory strengthening of hundreds of pre-1980 concrete buildings would have to happen within 30 years. While expensive, tax breaks would be offered to building owners to help ease the cost of reinforcing their structures.  


L.A. Mayor, Eric Garcetti, explains the sweeping plan in his Mayor’s blog, where he writes:

These action steps are designed to be best-in-class and achievable. This is not intended to simply be the latest “blue ribbon commission” report that sits on a shelf. It’s designed so that government, property owners, and commercial and residential tenants can come together to strengthen Los Angeles against a known and major threat to life, property, and our economy.


While admittedly a local story, Los Angeles isn’t the only major U.S. city  that lies in an active seismic zone; Memphis, St. Louis, Charleston, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Salt Lake City  . . . even New York City, all have varying degrees of seismic risks.  


Seismic Hazard Map – Credit USGS

While we can’t prevent natural disasters, we can prepare for them  You may not be able to do anything personally about the risks to local infrastructure, but you can ensure that you and your family have the supplies to survive for days (or better yet, a couple of weeks) if these vital services are cut or destroyed. 


Working to improve earthquake awareness, preparation, and safety is Shakeout.org, which promotes yearly earthquake drills and education around the country (see NPM13: A Whole Lotta Shakeouts Going On).  If you live in one of these seismically active areas, I would encourage you to take part in these yearly drills.



For more information on emergency preparedness, I would invite you  to visit:

FEMA http://www.fema.gov/index.shtm

READY.GOV http://www.ready.gov/

AMERICAN RED CROSS http://www.redcross.org/

And some of my preparedness blogs, including:

When 72 Hours Isn’t Enough

The Gift Of Preparedness – 2014 Edition

In An Emergency, Who Has Your Back?

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