Tag Archives: San Francisco

The Next Big One: Expert Advice On Planning For The Inevitable

The 25th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake provides an opportunity to remember and reflect about what we lost. It also offers an opportunity to think about how we can better plan and prepare for an inevitable earthquake on the Bay Area’s precarious fault lines.

While we can’t accurately predict when an earthquake will strike, we can say there’s more at risk here then there was in 25 years ago; the Bay Area’s population has grown 25 percent and the value of residential property is now $1.2 trillion. A worst-case, magnitude 7.9 earthquake on the San Andreas Fault could strike an urban center with 32 times the destructive force of Loma Prieta, potentially causing commercial and residential property losses over $200 billion.

As part of our activities around the Loma Prieta anniversary, we gathered experts at a roundtable to discuss how to improve resilience in the Bay Area. Here are some of their lessons and observations:

Patrick Otellini, Chief Resilience Officer, San Francisco
Think about people when crafting public policy:

Preparing for an earthquake is an enormous task. San Francisco is working to retrofit 4,800 buildings during the next seven years. You have to get the right people at the table when crafting policy changes and understand how citizens will be affected. There needs to be a dual focus: protect the public interest while building consensus on changes that protect safety and health.

Dr. Patricia Grossi, Earthquake expert and senior director of product model management, RMS
Don’t short change risk modeling:

Risk modeling helps us assess how we are planning for the next big event, highlights uncertainties and leads to thorough preparation. But any analysis shouldn’t just consider dollar signs; it should analyze the worst-case scenario and what an earthquake would do to our lives in the immediate days and weeks after.

Kristina Freas, Director of Emergency Preparedness, Dignity Health
Retrofit hospitals and prepare to help the most vulnerable:

Hospitals are little cities. The same issues with supplies and logistics affecting metropolitan areas in a disaster would affect hospitals. Hospitals need to have plans to mitigate damages from water and power loss and protect patients.

Danielle Hutchings Mieler, Resilience Program Coordinator for the Association of Bay Area Governments
Bridge the private and public gap in infrastructure repair:

There’s been progress in retrofitting public buildings. But many private facilities – homes, businesses and private schools – are vulnerable. This is problematic because the Bay Area is growing in areas like the shoreline, which are close to fault lines and at greater risk. Work is needed to ensure that all types of buildings – both private and public – are well prepared and sturdy.

Lewis Knight, planning and urban design practice leader, Gensler
Think different about infrastructure and retrofitting:

Many engineering firms report to Wall Street and big infrastructure. They aren’t truly considering changes that need to be made to protect communities affected by both earthquake risk and climate change. There needs to be frank discussions about how infrastructure can be part of a defense against natural disasters.

What else is crucial to consider when thinking about the next earthquake?

Infographic: When the "Big One" Hits

The Need for Preparation and Resiliency in the Bay Area

With the recent August 24, 2014 M6.0 Napa Earthquake, the San Francisco Bay Area was reminded of the importance of preparing for the next significant earthquake. The largest earthquake in recent memory in the Bay Area is the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. However, in the event of a future earthquake, the impacts on property and people at risk are higher than ever. Since 1989, the population of the region has grown 25 percent, along with the value of property at risk, and according to the United States Geological Survey, there is a 63 percent chance that a magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquake will hit the Bay Area in the next 30 years.

The next major earthquake could strike anywhere – and potentially closer to urban centers than the 1989 Loma Prieta event.  As part of the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the earthquake, RMS has developed a timeline of events could unfold in a worst-case scenario event impacting the entire Bay Area region.

In the “Big One’s” Aftermath

Prepare

This black swan scenario is extreme and is meant to get the stakeholders in the earthquake risk management arena to consider long-term ramifications of very uncertain outcomes. According to RMS modeling, a likely location of the next big earthquake to impact the San Francisco Bay area is on the Hayward fault, which could reach a magnitude of 7.0. An event of this size could cause hundreds of billions of dollars of damage, with only tens of billions covered by insurance. Without significant earthquake insurance penetration to facilitate rebuilding, the recovery from a major earthquake will be significantly harder. A cluster of smaller earthquakes could also impact the area, which, sustained over months, could have serious implications for the local economy.

While the Bay Area has become more resilient to earthquake damage, we are still at risk from a significant earthquake devastating the region. Now is the time for Bay Area residents to come together to develop innovative approaches and ensure resilience in the face of the next major earthquake.