California Earthquakes – All Disasters Are Local

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Major Earthquakes in SoCal

Earthquakes shake things up, literally. The reports that came out of California since Thursday, July 4th show wild footage of impacts and local reactions. I’m sure by now you’ve seen the stories about the two massive earthquakes that impacted Southern California over the holiday week. 

The first on Thursday was a magnitude 6.4 earthquake and the second on Friday was a 7.1. Both epicenters were close to the town of Ridgecrest, west of Las Vegas and Northeast of Los Angeles. Amazingly, little widespread damage was reported, especially to newer construction that used earthquake-resistant materials. 

California Earthquake construction

Disaster Preparedness Review

As I wrote about in my last blog, Does Money Matter In Disaster Preparedness, the culture that a region develops to respond to crisis events makes a huge difference in outcomes. Structures built in California after the 1980s embraced earthquake preparedness survived generally unscathed.  

Trona, CA, which is adjacent to Ridgecrest, had more structural damage and utility impacts than its neighbor. Reporting indicates this is primarily due to its older buildings that were not earthquake-proof. Trona is a mining town; it may have fewer resources for disaster planning. Regardless, it appears not to have embraced a disaster preparedness culture, at least in city planning. It’s interesting to notice the difference in how two towns prepare for local hazards. 

southern California Earthquakes

All Disasters Start and End Local

The fact that disasters start and end locally is well known to many of us who work disaster responses. When all of the media hype and government disasters resources go away, these two towns will be back to fending for themselves. Regardless of the reasons, I hope both cities will evaluate what went well and what they can improve on for the next big earthquake. 

As Californian’s know, it’s not if but when the next big one will hit. For earthquake preparedness, structural design is a large part of being ready. I highlighted Ross Stein’s Defeating Earthquakes Ted Talk in my blog, Ted Inspirational Talks for Disaster Professionals. If you are not familiar with his simple and effective idea to build earthquake-proof structures, I urge you to check it out. As part of the same blog, I also showcased Steven Eberlein’s ideas for why we don’t prepare for earthquakes and his simple solution to get us ready.

Let me know your thoughts on the recent SoCal earthquakes and local reactions to it. Please share any other innovative solutions or examples of people who are doing a great job of preparing for natural disasters.

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