Imagine you’re back in 2018, but with knowledge of the COVID-19 pandemic. What investment in readiness would you have made?

Now translate that to earthquakes and the opportunities you have now to guard against adversity:

  • What steps would you take to saves lives and shield yourself against liability?
  • What would you do to protect your assets and business continuity?
  • How would you do your part to preserve the well-being of communities you serve?

Hindsight makes choices seem clear. When experience doesn’t provide that clarity, we need to turn to risk analysis to calculate the actions we take in preparing for the unknown.

Risks of an L.A. disaster

Nationwide, the U.S. experiences $4.4 billion in earthquake losses every year, with $3.3 billion of that in California alone, according to FEMA.

Earthquakes are inescapable in California, where there is nearly a 50:50 chance of a monstrous 7.5-plus-magnitude quake striking in the next 30 years – most likely here in the L.A. region – according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

If a 7.8-magnitude earthquake were to strike along the San Andreas Fault in Los Angeles , one in every 16 buildings – more than 300,000 structures – would be damaged, the USGS determined in its ShakeOut scenario compiled by more than 300 experts from a variety of fields. Under this scenario, the study also projected:

  • 1,059 deaths
  • 453 serious injuries
  • 13,454 “non-fatal” injuries
  • 121,339 displaced households (3.5 million individuals)

At least five pre-1994 steel moment-frame high-rise buildings would collapse, with about 5,000 people inside them if the quake strikes during regular business hours. And, as many as 50 low- and mid-rise concrete moment-frame buildings would collapse, and 900 unreinforced masonry buildings would be irreparably damaged, the study found.

Maps identify L.A. risks block-by-block

The age of a structure is a strong indicator of earthquake vulnerability. The older the building, the weaker the building codes were to protect its structural integrity.

City Hub L.A. has compiled an interactive map showing the ages of Los Angeles buildings from 1909 to 2000 – the vast majority of which were constructed in the 1970s or earlier. Visit

cityhubla.github.io/LA_Building_Age/ or do a search for: cityhub la building age map.

Other factors in determining earthquake risk include proximity to an earthquake fault, and whether your building stands on top of a liquefaction zone. The City of Los Angeles provides detailed maps of this and other information at: geohub.lacity.org/datasets.

Building type is another important factor of risk analysis, and soft-story structures built before 1978 are particularly at risk.

These wood-framed structures, with open ground floors for parking or storefronts, are considered extremely vulnerable to collapse in a major earthquake. The composition of these buildings lacks the ability to withstand lateral forces that push the building from side to side. The swaying can cause the first floor to collapse, and the upper stories to pancake on top of it.

Other vulnerable building types include non-ductile concrete built before 1978; tilt-up concrete built before 1978; steel moment frame structures constructed prior to the mid-1990s; and unreinforced masonry buildings.

When it comes to major earthquakes, will your apartment building survive? Contact Optimum Seismic today to arrange for your free building assessment for earthquake safety.  Use the knowledge you gain to plan for and protect your future.