Nobody knows where or when the next major earthquake will strike. And while there is clear evidence about what types of buildings are most likely to suffer damage from seismic shaking, it’s always best to know your risks by having your apartment building inspected to identify its own unique strengths and weaknesses.

Many structures considered safe 25 or more years ago have now been proven to be vulnerable to the violent ground movement experienced in a major quake. Scientists and engineers have pinpointed five main building types that present overwhelming risks to building owners, tenants and the communities those structures serve.

Earthquake risks in Orange County

Active earthquake faults in Orange County run along the coast and mountain ranges, hitting places such as Huntington Beach and Yorba Linda.

And the hillside communities of Laguna Beach, San Clemente and Santiago Canyon are prone to landslides that can be triggered in a major earthquake, potentially undermining the foundation of a building, or sliding into one.

Liquefaction areas can be found throughout the county, most notably wherever water flows either above or below the ground such as in the aquifer-rich region of central and coastal Orange County — Garden Grove, Santa Ana, Irvine, Huntington Beach, and Yorba Linda, to name a few.

Given these findings, income property owners have several economic factors to consider when weighing the cost benefits of a seismic retrofit. These include potential loss of income, loss of equity, bankruptcy, and liability associated with damage, death and injury associated with an earthquake.

1 in 16 buildings compromised

Officials estimate there are as many as 300,000 structures in Southern California standing today that could crumble or collapse in an earthquake. These numbers equate to one in every 16 buildings, a USGS assessment determined.

In fact, buildings in the Greater Los Angeles area (which encompasses Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties) have up to a 5% chance of being damaged by an earthquake this year, according to the United States Geological Service.

These vulnerable structures include but are not limited to:

  • Soft-story structures built before 1978
  • Unreinforced masonry built before 1975
  • Concrete tilt-up built before 1994
  • Non-ductile concrete built before 1977
  • Steel moment frame built before 1996

If your building falls within one of these categories, you should consider getting an engineering study to assess the structure’s unique circumstances, which includes not only structural design and composition, but also soils composition and proximity to nearby fault lines.

The benefit of knowing your risks

An engineering study of your property can help to establish clear parameters of risk. That will help in calculating the type of action you should take to guard it and your tenants against harm in the event of a major earthquake.

This step can ultimately lead to potential structural upgrades that can help to:

  • Protect your building’s equity
  • Guard against liability
  • Preserve your building’s cash flow
  • Avoid demolition costs
  • Qualify a structure for earthquake insurance
  • Enhance the overall value of the property

Most apartment owners have worked very hard for their property. It’s what they rely on for their retirement, and it’s definitely in their best interest to protect it.

Keep yourself informed about the potential earthquake risks, not only to your building, but to your own fiscal health and well-being. Visit for more information, or call us at 323 978-7664.