This month I’d like to share some of the initiatives that have been going on behind the scenes in response to the devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. Although this disaster has faded from the news, we know that the recovery will take years and I want to assure you that seismic safety is in the forefront of mind for the SEAOSC Board.
First, SEAOSC has not yet been contacted to help with the recovery response in Turkey and Syria. I do know that some structural engineers from Southern California were deployed, but this was through a search and rescue organization. We are prepared and able to help if such a request comes through.
The SEAOSC Board immediately reached out to our local officials and representatives, including the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass’s office, and to the Los Angeles City Council. These earthquakes serve as a wake-up call to our community. In addition to the seismic retrofit ordinances that have already been enacted, there are actions our community leaders can take to further improve the safety and resiliency of our building stock and infrastructure. We are now meeting with a number of local leaders to offer our help and advice as structural engineers. If you are interested in becoming involved in future efforts, I encourage you to get involved with the Existing Buildings Committee, the Seismology & Hazards Committee, the Codes & Standards Committee, or the Legislative Action Committee (https://seaosc.org/Committee-Pages). We will be asking for volunteers from these committees to participate.
SEAOSC representatives also met with our technical experts and colleagues to discuss potential action and ensure a unified message. The group was formed quickly and included representatives from SEAOSC, SEAONC, SEAOC, EERI, and the Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society. We knew that we needed to act quickly while we had the attention of our local leaders. SEAOC and EERI had already been working together on the EERI-SEAOC Joint Policy Agenda: Legislative Actions Needed to Reduce California’s Earthquake Risk, and this was published on February 23, 2023: https://seaosc.org/resources/eeri-seaoc_statement_feb_202.pdf
This agenda outlines three main points:
- First, we must identify and retrofit our existing vulnerable buildings.
- Second, we must uphold existing laws that require our healthcare facilities to be earthquake-ready.
- Finally, we must adopt building codes that help our communities recover.
I’ll close with an excerpt from the EERI-SEAOC Joint Policy Agenda:
“Future large earthquakes will occur in California. How we prepare now will impact how we respond and recover later. Our communities are vulnerable to building collapses, loss of life, and permanent disruption to the way of life. California has led the world in creating a safer built environment by learning from losses over the last century. But we must take the lead again by retrofitting older vulnerable buildings and adopting a new generation of building codes that preserve our communities, our economy, and our future before the next major earthquake strikes.”
As always, please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or comments.
Patti Harburg - Petrich, S.E.
SEAOSC President 2022-23