There is a mathematical certainty to the outcomes of unionized governments ...

Earthquakes: A reminder of a deadly question ...

Los Angeles is rife with politically-connected landlords and developers; many spending large sums of money to bend the system to favor their projects.

Over the years I have asked questions about the survivability of a certain class of high-rise buildings in Los Angeles which were to be thoroughly inspected and  strengthened if any deficiencies were found. I have never received a satisfactory answer and thought that I would use this opportunity to re-ask the question.

Why now?

Constantly reminded that we are living in an area crisscrossed  with Earthquake faults, it is once again to consider preparation for California’s fabled “BIG ONE.”

As reported by the Los Angeles Times …

Residents prepare for 'Big One' in  Great California Shakeout

"Millions of Californians were set to participate Thursday in the Great California ShakeOut, an annual event billed as the largest earthquake emergency-preparedness drill in the nation, aimed at educating residents about what to do in the next shaker and how best to prepare for the ‘Big One.’

“More than 2.8 million Los Angeles County residents have registered for this year's event, scheduled to take place at 10.21 a.m., according to organizers. They include private citizens, schools, businesses, government institutions, nonprofit organizations and religious groups.”

“The ShakeOut drill was launched three years ago and is based on scientists' predictions of what would occur during and after a magnitude-7.8 earthquake along the San Andreas Fault, considered one of the most dangerous in Southern California, partly due to its length.”

Scientists predict a 7.8-magnitude earthquake could kill 1,800 people, injure about 50,000 and cause some $200 billion in damage.”

Recent research showing that sections of the fault are long overdue for a major earthquake has some scientists saying the southern portion of the fault is capable of a magnitude 8.1 that could run 340 miles, from Monterey County to the Salton Sea.”

“Such a temblor would be much stronger and longer than the last major rupture along the southern San Andreas fault in 1857, scientists have said.”

“Organizers of the ShakeOut urged Californians not to delay in preparing for an earthquake, by stocking up on food, water, medicines and having some reserve cash. Residents also are encouraged to anchor heavy furniture to walls, learn first aid and devise a family action plan that would include a designated post-temblor meeting place.”

From a previous blog entry …

I have a personal interest in the subject...

First, I vividly remember the Northridge Quake in excruciating detail. Having to seek the assistance of a neighbor to extricate a family member from a jumble of furniture, trying to get gas and water at a local gas station with no power, fleeing the area for a clear, safer area in case of strong after-shocks and dreading the fact that this 6.7 magnitude, 15-second shaker could be a precursor to the dreaded "BIG ONE" that everyone talks about. We never returned to that residence (it was red-tagged as unsafe) except to retrieve our belongings.

Second, one of my good friends, a certified welder and pyrotechnics special effects expert, kept telling me about these buildings in Los Angeles which were put together with a particular welding product and were unsafe. I remember standing with my friend on the floor of a West Los Angeles high-rise and looking at a crack between the wall and the floor -- looking three stories straight down where the building's supports had separated from the frame.

So I was determined to follow-up the subject when I started writing my personal blog.


The U.S. Department of the Interior - U.S. Geological Survey, in conjunction with the California Department of Conservation - California Geological Survey, released a report titled "The ShakeOut Scenario."

This is not some haphazard guess at what may happen by politically-motivated hacks, it is solid research and the extrapolation by knowledgeable scientists and others; based on the work of some of today's smartest earthquake specialists, engineers and disaster coordinators.

The joint authors of The Earthquake Scenario are: Lucile M. Jones, Richard Bernknopf, Dale Cox, James Goltz, Kenneth Hudnut, Dennis Mileti, Suzanne Perry, Daniel Ponti, Keith Porter, Michael Reichle, Hope Seligson, Kimberley Shoaf, Jerry Treiman, and Anne Wein.

For those Californians who do not recognize the name Lucile M. Jones, she is better known as Lucy Jones who, with her compatriot Kate Hutton are the most prominent fixtures on any serious report on earthquakes in California.

One of my worst fears...

On page 7 (out of 312) in a section subtitled "Buildings," I found this section:

"Steel moment frame buildings built before 1994 were found to form cracks in their connections during the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Similar damage occurred in the 1995 Kobe earthquake and some buildings collapsed."

"Special study was conducted to analyze the behavior of steel frame high-rise buildings in the ground motions modeled for this earthquake. This event shows amplified long period motions caused by resonance in the sedimentary basins, particularly the very deep Los Angeles Basin."

"A special panel of structural engineers evaluated the analytical study and concluded 'Given these ground motions, the collapse of some pre-1994 welded-steel moment-frame buildings is a credible scenario.'”

Because this result comes from the long period ground motions, the area where this type of damage is possible is relatively large and includes much of the urbanized areas of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. It is impossible to determine how many and which buildings are the most susceptible without detailed structural analysis which is beyond the scope of this study. For the purposes of the ShakeOut emergency drills, we posit that 5 steel moment-frame high-rise buildings will collapse and that 10 more will be 'red-tagged.'”

And on page 113, is a more specific section on the problem titled: "High-Rise Pre-Northridge Welded-Steel Moment-Frame (PNWSMF) Buildings; Study by Swaminathan Krishhan and Matthew Muto, California Institute of Technology “ShakeOut 2008: Tall Steel Moment-Frame Building Response” and the comments of review panelists: Greg Deierlein, Stanford University, Ronald Hamburger, SGH Inc. and Jim Malley, Degenkolb Engineers.

For those wishing to read the report, it can be found at by clicking on the Reference Links section at the end of the blog entry.

Bottom Line …

Even though I no longer live within the City of Los Angeles and have very little reason to visit downtown high-rises or large office buildings along the densely-populated Wilshire Corridor, I still fear that there are a number of buildings which were never thoroughly inspected and the extremely expensive mitigation repairs made.

And now, in these economically challenging times, mitigation repair costs would have skyrocketed and property values declined – both reasons  for our elected officials to avoid broaching the subject.

But for whatever good it does, I once again ask if there is a central building registry database containing critical information which is not being released to the public?

Once again, we are reminded that we not only live in a water-starved desert, but in a highly active earthquake fault zone. Every day I look out the window and see the Santa Monica Mountains, I am reminded that they did not get there by accident.

Be well, be safe and take care of yourself, your family and your neighbor first.

-- steve

Reference Links …

Residents prepare for 'Big One' in Great California Shakeout | L.A. NOW | Los Angeles Times




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