Orange County’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic was like much of the rest of California: lives lost, businesses closed, social distancing enforced, and most everyone told to wait it out in the isolation of their homes.

These have been unprecedented times, and in many ways the experience has heightened our attention to other risks and vulnerabilities we face.

Case in point: When a 4.9-magnitude earthquake struck Anza last month, many of us wondered, what next?

Earthquake risks in Orange County

Earthquakes are considered a major threat to Orange County, due to the proximity of the San Andreas, Newport-Inglewood, Whittier, Elsinore and San Jacinto fault zones, as well as others.

A significant earthquake along one of these faults could devastate our communities.

Here are the U.S. Geological Survey’s hazard predictions for Orange County, should a major 7.8-magnitude quake strike Southern California:

  • 362 deaths (105 from collapsed steel high-rises)
  • 148 serious injuries
  • 60% of hospitals non-functional
  • 2,825 “non -fatal” injuries
  • 39,917 displaced households (1.16 million individuals)
  • Fires spanning “tens of city blocks”

“Of concern, are fires in Orange County and the central Los Angeles basin, where a large plain of relatively uniform dense low-rise buildings provides a fuel bed such that dozens to hundreds of large fires are likely to merge into dozens of conflagrations,” the study determined. “These fires could destroy tens of city blocks, and several of these large fires could merge into one or several super conflagrations that could destroy hundreds of city blocks.”

Beach and higher-density communities will be most at risk, particularly where the bulk of buildings were constructed before 1990. (View the report at https://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2008/1150/of2008-1150small.pdf)

What’s the risk to you?

Much of that depends on the type of apartment building you own, the year it was constructed, the type of soil it stands on and its proximity to an earthquake fault.

The closer you are to a fault, the more likely you are to be impacted by seismic activity. Here in Southern California, the junction of the San Andreas and San Jacinto faults creates a very scary seismic scenario where both might rupture simultaneously, causing what scientists say could be an epic magnitude-7.5 earthquake.

Southern California faces a greater threat of earthquake loss than any other region in the state, according to two recent sources: the USGS and a U.C. Berkeley study performed on behalf of the California Geological Survey.

These conclusions were based on an updated catalog of past and recent earthquakes, including last year’s Ridgecrest temblors.

Structural safety experts have determined that these five building types are most vulnerable to damage in a quake:

  • Pre-1978 soft-story “dingbat” buildings
  • Pre-1975 unreinforced masonry buildings
  • Pre-1994 concrete tilt-up buildings
  • Pre-1977 non-ductile concrete structures
  • Pre-1996 steel moment frame structures

If one of these building types applies to your property, consider having it assessed if only to gain accurate information regarding potential loss and the risks you may face.

With COVID-19, we have witnessed the impacts in terms of personal tragedies and waves of economic disruption that the forces of nature can bring to everyone.

Having your building assessed for earthquake risks is an important step toward resilience, and having accurate information is key to making smart decisions for the future. Protect your investment.  Have your building evaluated today.