The Big One: California Braces for the Biggest Earthquake Yet

Posted by in Hazard Disclosure on Jun 17, 2015

Several news outlets have been reporting that the biggest disaster to happen in California is expected to strike at any moment. Much of Southern California rests around the San Andreas Fault, and a recent explicatory study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey, the Southern California Earthquake Center, the California Geological Survey, along with several other experts showed that a massive quake is likely to happen soon. As a result, scientists have been working on ways to predict how an earthquake of huge magnitudes will affect the sprawling cities and suburbs within the area.

ABC News reports that scientists have been working with local governments and first responders to come up with a realistic crisis scenario that can help them formulate a viable disaster preparedness plan. They imagine the next “Big One” to measure at magnitude 7.8 in the Richter scale. If the tremors last for 3 minutes, the earthquake could result in 50,000 injured victims and 1,800 fatalities. Damage to infrastructure could reach up to $200 billion.

While this situation is only a “what-if” scenario that’s meant to prepare local governments for the upcoming disaster, the U.S. Geological Survey cautions that an earthquake of similar proportions is likely to happen in California in the next few decades. In fact, the USA Today article notes that researchers estimate that theirs is a 46 percent chance that an earthquake at magnitude 7.5 or greater could occur in the next 30 years.

The worst thing about this news is the fact that earthquakes can’t be forecasted the same way we do hurricanes and storms. The only way scientists can predict earthquakes is by investigating patterns that develop through history. Science can offer rough estimates, but the only way to mitigate such a disaster is through sufficient preparation. The Southern California Earthquake Center outlines several steps that should be prioritized for such a scenario. Emergency response training, public earthquake drills, and the identification of vulnerable structures can do a lot to prepare a community for the upcoming quake. Urban planning is also an important part of disaster preparedness. With a natural hazard report, residents can be informed if their houses are in areas prone to earthquake damage. This can help them prepare to an adequate level.

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