Reaction to last month’s 4.9-magnitude earthquake in Anza was the same for just about everybody who felt it: That’s the LAST thing we need right now.

Striking in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and felt throughout San Diego, Orange and western Riverside counties, the quake jolted us into realizing the harm that a natural or medical emergency can bring to us all.

Pandemic Opens Eyes to Other Risks, Potential Disasters

Photo Credit to WebMD

Such is the mark of disaster. It can strike with little warning, upends life as we know it —and leaves us unsteady as we work toward recovery.

How prepared is San Diego for its next major earthquake?

Here are the most recent projections:

  • 45% of all residential buildings damaged
  • 23,000 residential units severely or completely damaged
  • 36,000 households displaced
  • 40% of commercial and industrial buildings damaged, (20% extensively or beyond repair)
  • $38 billion in damage
  • $5.2 billion in lost income

These are figures quoted from the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute’s recent study released in March at the 2020 National Earthquake Conference at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina.

“(Earthquake) damage to buildings is expected to be severe and widespread, particularly in the heavily populated coastal areas and in the older urban areas,” the study found. “While most newer buildings, particularly single-family residences, can be expected to survive the scenario earthquake with repairable damage, many larger and older buildings can be expected to be more severely damaged and potentially unsalvageable.”

The San Diego-Tijuana cross-border community is home to more than 5 million people with shared infrastructures and economies, and the region’s population density and older vulnerable buildings make these communities susceptible to damage from earthquakes.

And that’s not all. According to the EERI scenario study, a major quake in this region could also cause:

  • 120,000 damaged buildings, 8,000 beyond repair
  • A significant housing crisis
  • Interruptions in water, sewer and gas service
  • Disruptions in highway, airport and rail service
  • Liquefaction in beach communities
  • Landslides affecting Mount Soledad, Point Loma, Mission Valley and Sorrento Valley
  • A potential tsunami off the Coronado Canyon

What can be done to build resilience?

EERI suggests a San Diego County-wide review and inventory of seismic hazards to identify regional priorities and funding mechanisms. This should lead to the following outcomes:

  • Cities would compile inventories of seismically vulnerable structures and develop programs and ordinances for earthquake retrofits
  • The San Diego Association of Governments would map out overlay regional zoning and high-hazard areas to trigger review to reduce risks in those areas
  • Utilities and governments will work to crease disaster plans for resilience and emergency response

Full copies of the report can be viewed at

The coronavirus emergency has jarred us out of complacency and helped us realize the importance of being prepared for major emergencies at all times. When it comes to major earthquakes, will your apartment building survive?

We know that The Big One is coming, we just don’t know when.

It’s smart to act now in order to be prepared before the earthquake strikes.