Is Los Angeles ready for it? Probably not. There’s still a lot we don’t know about how structures will survive in such an event.
I found this interesting, from the perspective of my book:
Structural engineers point out that no building will ever be 100 percent safe.
We don’t know what’s going to happen to the ARCO Towers, or any of the other steel moment-frame buildings across Southern California. They could be OK when the Big One hits.
Or maybe the ground motion, soil composition and brittle welds will cause some of them to collapse or partially collapse.
How much of a risk, as a society, are we willing to take? And once we determine that a type of building could be dangerous in an earthquake, when do we act?
I posed this question to Bonowitz, the structural engineer who didn’t think a mandatory retrofit program for WSMF buildings is necessary.
“It’s a little bit crass, but suppose I told you that 99.9 percent of anyone in greater Los Angeles is going to survive the big earthquake. Is that acceptable to you?” he asked.
I told him I thought we should probably try to do everything that we can to save every life.
Bonowitz pushed back.
“I think to posit a large earthquake in an urban environment like Los Angeles and say it’s unacceptable if anybody dies in that earthquake, I think that’s unreasonable,” he said. “Especially if you have limited public money to put toward reducing the losses.”
Yes, we have to make a rational assessment. It’s the price of having a major metroplex in an earthquake zone.