Did you know that Long Beach was the testing ground for California’s recently unveiled ShakeAlert early warning system for earthquakes?

Beginning in 2014, the city did beta testing on the application until it was deemed effective enough to roll out to the rest of Los Angeles County and eventually, the state.

It operates on a network of underground sensors that detect seismic activity and send out warnings that can allow people to duck and cover moments before a quake strikes. Elevators will stop on the nearest floor, subways and rail transit will come to a halt, surgeons in hospitals will know to wait before making an incision.

“Seconds count when it comes to surviving an earthquake. This is technology that residents in Long Beach and throughout the county have been waiting for,” Mayor Robert Garcia said last year in a press release. “I encourage residents to download this app and follow the instructions provided.”

ShakeAlert is designed to save lives by giving people the time to prepare. However, early warnings do not protect buildings and infrastructure from damage during a quake. Only seismic retrofits can do that.

Unfortunately, you can’t structurally reinforce your building in a few seconds.  It’s a process that take several months.  So start now if you want to be ready when a large earthquake strikes.

Why is Protecting Buildings Important?

Long Beach has been a key player in promoting earthquake resilience for nearly 100 years.

Some of California’s earliest earthquake safety laws stemmed from the devastating Long Beach quake in 1933 that destroyed or severely damaged 120 schools, along with losses totaling nearly $921 million in today’s dollars. The Field Act and Garrison Act followed with requirements for architectural review of new and existing schools.

Most recently, the City Council approved granting a $1.1 million contract to create a Building Resiliency Program for Long Beach, which would include a citywide database of buildings and their potential vulnerability in an earthquake. Other cities putting together similar databases include Los Angeles and Santa Monica.

In the early 1970s, Long Beach created a voluntary program to retrofit unreinforced masonry buildings, which can crumble or collapse in a quake. The program was later made mandatory and most of those structures have been retrofitted for safety.

In 2008, the city created voluntary programs to help owners of wood-framed, soft-story structures retrofit their buildings. These buildings, with parking on the ground floor and dwelling units above, are known to pancake in severe shaking, as witnessed in the Northridge earthquake of 1994.

Is Your Building at Risk?

Seismologists and structural engineers have identified certain buildings that are most likely to sustain damage in a major earthquake. These include:

  • Soft-story built before 1978: These structures, with parking on the ground floor and units built above, are prone to collapse during major earthquakes.
  • Unreinforced Masonry built before 1975: The facades of these buildings can collapse in a quake.
  • Concrete Tilt-up built before 1994: Weak connections can fail and cause walls to pull apart from the roof, presenting a collapse hazard.
  • Non-Ductile Concrete built before 1977: Limited lateral resisting capacity makes these structures brittle.
  • Steel Moment Frame built before 1996: These buildings can sustain brittle fracturing of the steel frames at welded joints between beams and columns.

A detailed USGS scientific assessment of potential damage from a magnitude-7.8 San Andreas earthquake in Southern California estimated that 300,000 structures would be damaged.

That’s one in every 16 buildings in the region.

Will yours be among them? Optimum Seismic will provide a free consultation and building assessment to give you the information needed to make smart decisions about your property.

Special Offer:  Optimum Seismic is offering $1,000 off any earthquake retrofit construction contract signed in June 2000, as well as $500 off any engineering design contract for soft-story retrofit signed in June 2000.