-Appeared on Apartment Association Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA).

The Philippines is all too familiar with natural disasters: deadly tropical storms and typhoons, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. Located along the Pacific’s so-called “Ring of Fire,” where seismic activity and tropical storms hit with alarming regularity, the Philippines knows it cannot stop nature — so it is working to prepare for it through resiliency.

The country recently began construction on an entirely new city designed to be pollution-free and resilient to natural disasters. It is part of a dual-pronged effort to build resilient communities that also includes fortifying older, vulnerable structures in existing communities.

The 30-year project to build New Clark City is intended to serve as a “back-up” city for government to function should the country’s capitol, Manila, succumb to a natural disaster. Phase One, costing $2 billion, is expected to be completed in time for the Southeast Asian Games in 2019.

Resilience and Sustainability

Building this resilient and environmentally friendly city is an incredible prospect.

But here in California and in much of the rest of the world, it makes more sense to focus energy and resources on retrofitting existing buildings — protecting lives and the livelihood of people living in established communities. Retrofits are more cost-effective and support the long-established social fabric of a community, preserving social, economic and environmental well-being.

In fact, the White House, in its latest National Security Strategy listed the promotion of American resilience against natural disaster as one of the country’s primary security issues for 2018. That plan includes empowering communities and individuals to take action to be more resilient against the threats and hazards Americans face.

What does an earthquake-resilient community look like? The National Science and Technology Council identified four key characteristics of disaster-resilient communities:

  1. Relevant hazards are recognized and understood
  2. Communities at risk know when a hazard event is imminent
  3. Individuals at risk are safe from hazards in their homes and places of work, and
  4. Disaster-resilient communities experience minimum disruption to life and economy after a hazard event has passed

The Path to Resiliency

Like the Philippines, California also sits along the Ring of Fire.

Earthquakes here are also commonplace. Thankfully, here in our state, the public is starting to take that threat seriously — only instead of building entirely new cities, we are seeing a push to make existing communities safer through retrofits.

This is making cities safer. Protecting lives and livelihoods. Building resilience that will last for generations.

Every building protected from an earthquake represents resilience – the capacity to spring back quickly from hardship – for tenants, their employers, hospitals, government services and the building owners themselves.

Every building saved means families can remain in their homes, and employees can go to work. It’s another step away from the chaos and crime that can come when a community shuts down.

A Time for Urgency

Scientists agree that a catastrophic mega-quake – one that could bring up to 45 times the destruction of the Northridge quake – could strike at any moment in California.

This genuine threat poses the potential loss of hundreds of billions of dollars to the state and its communities based on the limited data currently available. Projections of subsequent economic loss spike those calculations exponentially.

Sadly, a lot of Californians prefer to ignore the problem. Many of us live in earthquake denial.

But this is an issue that should be in the forefront of everyone’s minds. Are we prepared at home, in our place of business, in our hospitals, schools and community?

How quickly could we recover from that looming 7.8-magnitude earthquake, and how severely would economic disaster in California ripple throughout the rest of the nation?

These are questions best considered and acted on now, while there’s still time to prepare.