But not in the midst of this global pandemic. Schools throughout the nation – even around the world – are doing things differently, teaching remotely, staggering schedules, social distancing and more to keep children and communities safe from the virus.

School campuses won’t be the same this fall. But this isn’t the first time that widespread crisis disrupted public education in our region.

The Long Beach earthquake of 1933 decimated many of the area’s schools. Thankfully, the quake roared to life at dinner time, when class was not in session.  This timing saved the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of children.)

With more than 120 schools destroyed or severely damaged in 6.4-magnitude quake, educators acted quickly to set up classes inside tents pitched at Long Beach Poly’s Burcham Field, and other locations.

Bill Wallace was 10 and listening to “Little Orphan Annie” on the radio just before it struck, he told the Press-Telegram in 2013. “My dad came in and threw me out of the house. I went outside and couldn’t stand, so I just held onto a tree and it was swaying and bumping me, so I went and laid on the sidewalk, but it was bucking up and down. I just couldn’t get comfortable in the darned thing. Afterward, it was quite a happy time actually, for us kids, with everybody cooking hotdogs and marshmallows and camping out.”

What if that quake struck today?

Schools are much safer now as a result of that 1933 quake, which sparked new laws requiring campuses to meet modern standards for earthquake safety – and that when those standards are raised due to new findings, schools must be retrofitted to comply.

Sadly, the same is not true for many commercial buildings built back then – or even as recently as the 1970s.

Many of these structures are still at of failure.  Seismologists and structural engineers have identified certain buildings that are most likely to sustain damage in a major earthquake. These include:

  • Soft-story structures built before 1978
  • Unreinforced Masonry built before 1975
  • Concrete Tilt-up built before 1994
  • Non-Ductile Concrete built before 1977

Seismologists say stress along the San Andreas fault has been building with little relief since the mid-1800s. The next “Big One” – which could come at any moment – could be of a magnitude of 7.5 or more, they say. Such a quake could rip along the fault and displace it by an average of 9 feet.

A quake of that size would cripple local communities. Lives and homes would be lost. Businesses would close, people would not be able to get to work, and an exodus of residents would flee, leaving our region behind for others to rebuild.

The City of Long Beach, like many other major California municipalities, is working to identify vulnerable structures within its jurisdiction, and it has implemented voluntary seismic retrofit programs to help owners fortify buildings at risk of damage or collapse in a major earthquake.

If you think your building may be at risk, contact Optimum Seismic today for a free property evaluation. This will help to identify what actions, if any, you need to take to protect your building, investment and tenants.