LA Times reporter Ron Lin recently traveled to New Zealand and came home with stories of the long road to recovery Californians can expect to playout if a similar event was to occur in our own backyards (https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-12-12/aftershocks-christchurch-new-zealand-earthquake-what-california-can-learn). The timing of his reporting was uncanny considering the recent 6.9 Earthquake on Mindanao Island in the Philippines this weekend (https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/15/asia/philippines-earthquake-mindanao-davao-intl/index.html).
Like the US, New Zealand and the Philippines both use versions of modern building codes as a basis for the design of major new buildings. A review of available video and photos suggests that many of the collapsed or damaged buildings in Davao are older structures with similar nonductile concrete or soft story vulnerabilities as found within the Los Angeles and San Francisco metropolitan areas. This highlights the need to address older buildings to increase capacity to resist earthquakes.
As Mr. Lin’s reporting indicates, suffering the damage of a major quake is not a short, easily overcome endeavor. Instead, unless building owners and communities do something to increase resilience, the aftermath of a major urban earthquake will not be measured weeks or months, but rather in years, if not decades.
This doesn’t have to be the full story. Intentional planning and retrofit solutions can help buildings survive the earthquake to allow a faster recovery. Businesses will be able to rely on these strengthened buildings to speed restoration and get people home and employees back to work.
The Structural Engineers Association of Southern California is available to assist and address questions regarding the recent earthquake as well as outline how building performance can be enhanced.