Archive for September, 2014


Everybody is afraid of earthquakes. Well, almost everybody. Structural engineers thrive after an earthquake hits. They pray to God for an earthquake every evening before going to bed. Business is booming, good times are back.

Jokes aside, why are people afraid of earthquakes? Of course, nobody wants to die or get seriously injured in an earthquake, or get their building damaged. But the truth is that with our ever improving building codes and hopefully mandatory upgrades of existing non-conforming or unsafe buildings, the chances of dying and building collapses are dwindling. There is another danger though. One not too many people think of in a major earthquake. What would Southern California do without water for 6 to 12 months? Let me explain.


In my last newsletter I mentioned a great idea of identifying and marking certain dangerous buildings for public information, not unlike the letter system used to grade restaurants. I believe the people who pay rent to work or to live in a building ought to know if there is a known and pronounced danger of being injured, or worse, during an earthquake. I did not know that my newsletter has such a profound effect, but the City of Los Angeles is now considering an ordinance requiring just that. However, there is a catch. Can building owners be held liable for their tenants losses if they knew about the potential dangers of their buildings? Apparently the answer is yes.


I live in Culver City, not far from the Baldwin Hills, La Cienega or Inglewood oil fields. For as long I’ve been living there, close to 40 years now and for decades before, these pumps have been pumping oil with their slow moving up and down motion like the head of a grasshopper. Not a pretty sight, but you can get used to it. Recently there has been a neighborhood activist or environmentalist movement to try everything possible to stoke fear in the public to limit or possibly eliminate them all in the name of “protecting the environment”. The latest very fashionable weapon they’re trying to use is that these wells and the methods some of them use (namely “fracking”) is causing earthquakes, therefore they should be banned. But evidence shows that “fracking” has no influence on seismic activity in California. Since bashing “fracking” became so popular, I thought a discussion about “fracking” and earthquakes would be an interesting topic me to write about.