Report Looks at Ability to Withstand, Recover From Quake

The recommendations include developing new techniques for evaluating and retrofitting existing buildings

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The National Research Council called Wednesday for a 20-year program that looks at increasing the United States' ability to withstand and recover from a major earthquake.

    One recommendation -- develop new techniques for evaluating and retrofitting existing buildings to better withstand earthquakes. Although the report noted that the March 11 quake and tsunami that struck Japan illustrate the sort of devastation that can occur even in a well-prepared nation, the magnitude-6.3 event in Christchurch, New Zealand provided researchers in California with a lot to consider when it comes to buildings.

    Christchurch's Buildings: The Comparison to LA's

    [LA] Christchurch's Buildings: The Comparison to LA's
    Dr. Lucy Jones explains how buildings in Christchurch reacted in an earthquake.

    "I look at Japan and that's not the best analogy for what goes on here," Dr. Lucy Jones, of the USGS, said on NBC4 LA's Newsconference. "The two buildings (in Christchurch) that created the largest life loss were both much more modern structures building in the 1980s to the same building code that we use with at least as good of enforcement of building code.

    "It's a sobering moment for us.They have a lot of older buildings retrofitted in the same way that we retrofit our older buildings here in California. And, they performed as they were supposed to -- the roofs stayed up and the facades came off, and those facades killed people. So we need to recognize that even though we've retrofitted our buildings they still can be deadly."

    Quake Warning System: "It's a Money Issue"

    [LA] Quake Warning System: "It's a Money Issue"
    Dr. Lucy Jones, of the USGS, discusses what needs to happen before California can have a system like Japan's. Click here for the full Newsconference report.

    Christchurch also provided an example of what people inside a building should do during a quake.

    "When you've got these unreinforced masonry buildings, people who stayed inside were protected," Jones said. "If you are in an unreinforced brick building that has been retrofitted, you are far better off staying inside. The roof will probably stay up and the walls are going to be coming down."

    Gauging the Tsunami Risk in Southern California

    [LA] Gauging the Tsunami Risk in Southern California
    A longtime assumption that the types of faults in California cannot directly trigger tsunamis is being questioned at USC's Tsunami Research Center

    Another recommendation from the National Research Council report -- installation of the remaining 75 percent of the Advanced National Seismic System to provide magnitude and location alerts within a few minutes after an earthquake. The network is made up of 7,000 earthquakes sensor systems.

    This map provides a look at the network, which would provide real-time data about seismic activity.

    Moderate earthquakes are not unusual in parts of the United States, but the last "great" earthquake shook Alaska in 1964. A quake and fire devastated San Francisco in 1906.

    The report noted that, "Just as Hurricane Katrina tragically demonstrated'' for hurricanes, "coping with moderate earthquakes is not a reliable indicator of preparedness for a major earthquake in a populated area."

    Other major U.S. quakes have occurred in the United States in California in 1857; the Memphis, Tenn.-St Louis area in 1811-12; South Carolina in 1886; and Massachusetts in 1755.

    More recommendations in the new report:

    • Complete coverage of national and urban seismic hazard maps to identify at-risk areas.
    • Develop and implement earthquake forecasting to provide communities with information on how seismic hazards change with time.
    • Work to combine Earth science, engineering and social science information so communities can visualize earthquake and tsunami impacts and find ways to reduce potential effects.
    • Plan emergency response and recovery activities to improve preparedness.
    • Establish a network to measure, monitor and model the disaster vulnerability and resilience of communities.

    The report was commissioned by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the lead agency in the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program.