Ridgecrest’s 6.4- and 7.1-magnitude earthquakes last year triggered ground movement that is believed to have raised the major earthquake risk along the San Andreas Fault – considered the most dangerous seismic threat in the United States.

Two recent research studies point to Ridgecrest as the impetus of successive ground-shaking that may create a chain reaction from one fault to the next, until it reaches the San Andreas.

Spanning 750 miles along the coast of California from the Salton Sea to Eureka, the San Andreas Fault is cocked and loaded – a fissure of mounting tension that splits our coastal mountain ranges from the nearby Sierra Nevadas. The majesty of these peaks testifies to the unfathomable force behind it.

Researchers say the Ridgecrest quakes and their 1,000 aftershocks could ignite the nearby Garlock Fault, which in turn could spark an earthquake along the San Andreas just outside of Los Angeles, according to a study conducted by the catastrophic modeling company, Temblor.

A second study by researchers at U.C. Berkeley determined that the initial 6.7-magnitude Ridgecrest quake set off the larger 7.1-magnitude aftershock – and that these movements in turn have impacted the Garlock Fault that connects to the San Andreas.

The threat of complacency

Amidst this increased risk, many Angelenos were jolted from their sleep last month when a 4.2-magnitude quake struck San Fernando in the early morning hours and sent shock waves well into Orange County.

“2020… this is enough,” one resident Tweeted. “Not now, earthquakes,” said another.

We all know we live in earthquake country, but quiet periods lull us into thinking they won’t happen – or maybe even worse – it gets us to stop thinking about them at all.

That’s when the real danger comes, because when earthquakes are out of our minds, we stop preparing for them – and that makes us vulnerable.

Knowledge is the best defense against disaster.

What you should know

Apartment owners should inform themselves with information needed to make educated decisions about protecting their livelihood, the safety of their tenants and their buildings, and confronting the risks earthquakes pose to them.

Here’s what you should consider:

Risks: How vulnerable is your building to damage from an earthquake? The age and type of structure is one factor, along with the type soil beneath it. Every structure is unique and risks specific to your situation can be best calculated with an engineering study.
Liabilities: Tenants in your building present significant liabilities, perhaps even if your structure is in compliance with local ordinances.
Loss of income: If your building were damaged, would you be able to keep up with payments even if the damage resulted in significant loss of income?
Cost of a retrofit: Get estimates from reputable, well-established firms so you know what’s reasonable and what’s not.
Financial incentives:  Apart from loan programs and fee reductions, Los Angeles allows apartment owners to recoup up to 50% of the costs of a retrofit through rent increases. Long-term, this has the potential of doubling a retrofit project’s ROI, making it a very wise business choice.

Above all, do your research before you make your decisions. Talk to other apartment owners who have retrofitted their property.

The more knowledge you gain about the subject, the smarter your decision will be.