July’s 5.4-magnitude Chino Hills Earthquake was a jolting reminder that we all need to prepare for the “big one”. It is no secret that California is riddled with earthquake faults. Click here for a map which shows seven of the faults with the probability of a magnitude 6.7 earthquake. Scientists have been reporting to us for some time now that we are due for a significant (big) earthquake. The southernmost section of the San Andreas Fault, which is just east of downtown Los Angeles, undergoes a major shift every hundred and fifty years or so. The last serious earthquake was about 100 years before Los Angeles was founded. So, Los Angeles is approximately 178 years overdue for the “big one”.
There is no doubt that when a serious earthquake strikes, and it is only a matter of time, millions of California citizens will be left without tap water, freeways and bridges will crumble and fall and hundreds of fires will likely break out. The 1994 Northridge earthquake registered a magnitude of 6.7, killed 57 people and caused over 20 billion dollars in damage.
To get our attention, geologists and others have developed the Great Southern California Shakeout, which is taking place this week.
As reported in the Wall Street Journal, at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, November 13, 2008, geologists hope that more than five million people around Los Angeles will participate in a disaster drill built around a mock 7.8 magnitude earthquake along the San Andreas fault. The Great Southern California Shakeout is being billed as the largest earthquake preparedness event in U.S. history. For more information, go to Shakeout.org. The big question is whether or not your homeowner association(s) are prepared for the big one.
We really do not recommend that associations get in the position of taking responsibility for storing emergency supplies, etc. More likely then not, those supplies will not be available when the earthquake actually hits, and the association will likely be blamed for not making sure that things were taken care of.
There are other things that associations can do to be prepared for a major earthquake. Members of the board of directors and others at the association can make sure that they know where the gas turn off is, for example. This would apply to other utilities as well.
Someone at the association should know how to manually open any gates that are operated mechanically as there is a big possibility there will be no power to operate those gates.
Apartment style condominium associations and especially highrises can make sure that they have clearly marked where emergency exists are located, that fire sprinklers are working, etc.
And then there is the earthquake insurance issue!