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USGS, LA partnering up to prep for future earthquakes

20 years after the Northridge quake, the city of L.A. is teaming up with experts to get prepared for the next one.
January 15, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
This week marks nearly 20 years since the Northridge earthquake struck Southern California and left destruction in its wake. Earthquake experts worry an even bigger quake could hit at anytime. Officials are trying to get the city of Los Angeles prepared for future earthquakes.

At 4:31 a.m. Jan. 17, 1994, Southern California shook violently. The earthquake killed 57 people, injured more than 5,000 and caused more than $20 billion in property damage.

"The first 24 hours following the Northridge earthquake, the Los Angeles Fire Department had responded to over 2,200 incidents in less than a day. To put that into perspective, that's nearly three times the daily average for the men and women working around the clock to save lives all over the city," described Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch Englander.

The city is trying to identify buildings that are especially vulnerable to collapsing during a major earthquake, including wood-frame "soft-story" residential buildings erected before 1978.

"Many of our buildings are not new. Many of them are older and built to earlier codes that we know have problems," said seismologist Lucy Jones with the U.S. Geological Survey.

In addition to her duties at USGS, Jones will now be working with the city of Los Angeles to prepare for the next time.

She worries about the city's infrastructure. The water supply could be disrupted and communications such as Internet and wireless, which weren't around during the Northridge quake, could stop working. Those are her priorities.

"We're all in this together. What life we're going to have afterwards is going to depend on the choices we make before. I'm really grateful for the opportunity to be able to work with the city and try and take this research and turn it into actual changes in our society," Jones said.

USGS announced the city partnership in a statement released on Tuesday. According to the statement, the agency said it will work with Mayor Eric Garcetti's administration to work together and develop recommendations to address the vulnerabilities of the city's water delivery infrastructure.

Jones will work on behalf of the mayor's administration and consult with other technical experts, convene public meetings over the next few months and also hold additional discussions with businesses, property owners and others.

The city of Los Angeles is also considering creating a smartphone app or emergency text-message system to give alerts about earthquakes. Also, there is a proposal to hold monthly earthquake drills throughout the city.

You can also prepare by having a family emergency plan and at least three days worth of food and water per person in your household.


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