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Preparing for the BIG ONE

11 Sep Posted by in Blog | Comments
Preparing for the BIG ONE

It doesn’t matter where you live in California, you have likely heard about the “Big One”.  While scientists have no way of predicting when it will happen, based on their research, they believe that a mega-quake will occur along the San Andreas Fault in southern California.  Such a strong earthquake will likely devastate the entire state and many seismologists believe that it will happen sometime in the next 30 years.

In an effort to predict what will happen when the “Big One” finally happens, earthquake experts, including seismologists and engineers, joined forces to identify the consequences of a potential mega-quake.  In working on this broad goal, they created The ShakeOut Scenario to predict what could happen when the “Big One” actually does occur, looking at the economic, physical and social impacts in the aftermath of such a powerful natural disaster.  With the results that came from The ShakeOut Scenario, they were able to pinpoint what can be currently changed or strengthened before the destructive earthquake occurs, in hopes of minimizing or avoiding injuries, building destruction, loss of business, equipment and data, and even loss of life.

While earthquakes could occur along a number of faults located in the state, there are two faults that are most concerning.  The Hayward Fault is located in northern California, on the eastern side of the San Francisco Bay, and it could easily generate such powerful seismic activity that San Francisco would be demolished.  More concerning at this point, however, is the San Andreas Fault in southern end of the state.  Scientists believe that the southern portion of this fault has built up enough stress and is ready to release that pent up pressure.  The incredibly destructive San Francisco quake in 1906 occurred along the northern section of the San Andreas; the southern section of the fault has been relatively quiet for centuries.  Geologists believe that a mega-quake is long past due in southern California.

The team that collaborated on The ShakeOut Scenario looked at a hypothetical 7.8 quake striking on November 13, 2008 at 10 a.m.  This quake supposedly took place in Coachella Valley, not too far from Los Angeles.  Based on what is known about earthquakes of that magnitude, in this scenario older buildings would collapse, water lines would be damaged, power lines would be severed and many fires would start throughout the Coachella Valley and all the way to Los Angeles.  With the water lines broken and roads impassable, emergency and rescue teams would not be able to do their job of putting the fires out.  Small fires would not be contained and they would merge together into bigger and bigger fires.  Millions of people would be impacted.

Los Angeles and the surrounding areas get electricity, gas and water from lines that cut across the San Andreas Fault.  Those lines would break during a mega-quake and, in fact, it would take many months before they all could be repaired.  Buildings constructed within the last 30 years would not perish, however such violent seismic activity could render them structurally unusable. Destruction could continue for many days due to the aftershocks that are sure to occur.

Most seismologists believe this is a conservative description of what would happen with a 7.8 magnitude earthquake.  Based on this ShakeOut Scenario, it is estimated that the BIG ONE would not only cause close to $200 billion in damages, as many as 5,000 people would be killed and more than 50.000 people would be injured from this powerful quake and its aftershocks.  Because of the massive damage to buildings and infrastructure, services that we count on every day would not be available for at least a year after the quake.  Most businesses would be shut down during that time and due to the cost, many business and commercial property owners would not be able to rebuild.  The local economy would be devastated as well and it would take years to restore it to current levels.  Residents would be miserable and possibly lose all hope of getting life back to normal in southern California, causing many to leave the area for good.

Over the last year, the city officials in Los Angeles have been working to strengthen the infrastructure and they have communicated with property owners to ensure the safety of tenants, residents and customers by encouraging them to strengthen their buildings before the BIG ONE happens.  Because there are many faults throughout California, all commercial property owners statewide should do the same.  The first step is to ensure safety. Business and commercial property owners should have an emergency preparedness plan in place that is regularly reviewed with all employees so they know what to do when an earthquake occurs.  They should also schedule periodic drills to practice the basic “Drop, Cover and Hold On” procedure onsite.

If you are a business or property owner, you can participate in the annual Great American ShakeOut event that is happening across the country on October 15, 2015, at 10:15am.  Participation is simple and only takes a few minutes.  This event is designed to give everyone an opportunity to practice the “Drop, Cover and Hold On” procedure and to think about how they can be safe whenever the ground starts shaking.  You can “schedule” an earthquake at 10:15 and have everyone practice the earthquake safety procedure wherever they are at that moment.  Practicing this simple drill will minimize unsafe actions and can help reduce injuries and save lives.  More information and training material can be found on the Great American ShakeOut website.

The second important step for business and property owners is to ensure that your building is strong enough to withstand the powerful force of violent seismic activity. The professional team at Saunders Commercial Seismic Retrofit can complete an extensive evaluation of your property to determine any weaknesses and maintenance needed to strengthen your building.  In addition, if a commercial seismic retrofit is necessary, their experts will provide a thorough cost estimate and will work with you to ensure that your employees, tenants and customers experience minimal disruptions during the retrofitting process.  If you would like more information about strengthening your property before the BIG ONE occurs, place a call to Saunders Commercial Seismic Retrofit today.

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(949) 646-0034

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(408) 267-3876

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