Monday morning’s 4.4 magnitude earthquake has given the citizens of Los Angeles a fresh reminder of the risks of seismic activity under their fair city. The largest earthquake that L.A. has seen in a decade has renewed the public interest in earthquake safety, no small part of which is the inspection and retrofit of older buildings in the L.A. area.
There are currently more than 1,000 concrete buildings in Los Angeles and the surrounding area that are at a significant risk of collapsing should the area be hit with a major quake. The LA Timesreports that even the most conservative estimates indicate that as many as 50 buildings could be outright destroyed in an earthquake, due in part to a lack of steel reinforcement in the walls and foundations of the buildings. Without such reinforcement, older concrete buildings are vulnerable to rapid sideways movement that can occur during an earthquake, causing the buildings to sway, buckle, and collapse.
Officials with the city have been aware of these problems for several decades, but are reluctant to force property owners into potentially expensive retrofits. Some have called for a list of offending buildings to be made public knowledge, so that people may be informed of the potential danger, but those demands have been rejected as well.
Seismologists claim that the region is long overdue for a large magnitude earthquake. Even the most recent tremors seem to indicate that a major quake is waiting to happen. It light of this evidence, it seems dangerously negligent for business owners to forgo important quake retrofitting on the buildings they own, and such buildings pose a significant – and unknown – threat to the general populace.