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How Science Helps Communities Survive Earthquakes
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Speaker 1: Welcome to Southern Californiaís Cajon Pass. Weíre just north of San Bernardino into the Northeast of Los Angeles. And this Pass is a critical lifeline quarter for Southern California and much of the southwestern United States.

We got inner state 15 running over to my left, major freight railways running over to my right, and there are power lines, gasoline and natural gas lines and water all running through this Pass. Now, running beneath this Pass is the San Andreas Fault. It actually runs right beneath this lake behind me.


For that reason and many others, the USGS is leading the science behind The Great Southern California ShakeOut - the largest earthquake preparedness drill in US history. To learn a little bit more, weíll be talking with some USGS earthquake scientists here in Southern California.

Speaker 2: The disruption here at Cajon Pass would be extensive. First, the rupture would break one of the high pressure gas lines that are just on the opposite side of the freeway from here. Then, it would break through the freeway offsetting one lane of traffic on each side.

It would then rupture through old Route 66 where all of the telecommunication fiber-optic lines are buried; and then across through both of these freight lines that connect the ports of LA and Long Beach to the rest of the country. It would then keep breaking, go through the power lines and rupture another gas pipeline and then the two gasoline lines.

And where that happens, normally the ground current through that pipeline, that would be broken and youíd get an arc and so the gasoline would ignite and we actually have in the scenario that youíd have an explosion forming a crater right where itís coincident with two other really big power lines across the fault. So thatís just over here. This is not the place you want to be when the big one actually hits.


We created an earthquake scenario that involves rupture of the parts of south of San Andreas Fault that we are most concerned about. It has a recurrence center volt of about 150 years, and yet itís been more than 300 years since the last big earthquake. So we know that that section of the Fault is really locked and loaded, ready to go.

In this case, weíve said it would be a magnitude 7.8. We based that on the fact that the 1857 Fort Tejon earthquake and also the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, both of those San Andreas Great Earthquakes were 7.8 and 7.9. So we wanted to go with that number because we know that can happen. We also think itís possible that the San Andreas Fault could even dish out a bigger earthquake than that. So this is actually not a worst-case scenario.

Speaker 3: The Great Southern California ShakeOut is a series of events that are going to be held over a week here in Southern California to help educate the community about the earthquake risk and what can be done about it and inspire people to take actions.


Because we fundamentally realized that what the earthquake will do to Southern California, what our lives will be like after the earthquake depends on the decisions weíre making right now to prepare or not prepare. So the Great Southern California ShakeOut is established to inspire Southern California to take it seriously and do something about it.

Now, this is really new in America. Previous earthquake drills have taken place; a school would it, a hospital will do one, and then the emergency managers have been doing mostly terrorism-related drills. So this is the first time Southern Californiaís Emergency Managers have drilled around an earthquake and itís very much the first time that weíve reached out to the public.

And as we put it together, it is a very sobering prospect because a big San Andreas earthquake like youíre seeing is an inevitability in Southern Californiaís future. And, in fact, itís a probability that many of the people alive now are going to live to see it. Some of the most dangerous parts of this are actually the fire following the earthquake..


Our estimate is that the fire could be doubling the losses that we see in the earthquake itself. And that business recovery becomes a really large issue because of the disruption to our utilities and lifelines. As an individual, the most important thing, if youíre a homeowner or own any sort of real estate in Southern California, you can probably make your building safer than it is. And we strongly recommend bringing in a foundation specialist or structural engineer and examining your building.

The Great Southern California ShakeOut, as this weeklong event, is cooperatively being created. Itís a very much a grassroots efforts with the US Geological Survey as one of the organizations participating. But we also have Caltech, the Southern California Earthquake Center, The Art Center College of Design, the City of Los Angeles, the Office of Emergency Services; all of these organizations are providing people to brainstorm ideas and create the structure.


Speaker 4: We see ourselves as a very significant partner in the USGS ShakeOut scenario. We see this as an opportunity to do some very genuine community outreach relative to the very scientifically-supported scenario of a catastrophic earthquake here in Los Angeles area. I think the operative word, the key word there is science. We have a scenario that is based on the work of some very diligent, very prolific scientists in USGS whoíve worked this issue for years.

And now, theyíve come up with a scenario that we can believe, we can trust, and that helps educate the public. Aware a public and educate a public, a public is much more able to prepare for a catastrophic earthquake, and more importantly to rebound from the effects of a catastrophic earthquake.

Speaker 5: Weíll be activating our Emergency Operations Center and bringing together all of our multi-agency partners together to play to this scenario that the science is producing.


So the chaos that itís producing, the catastrophic earthquake, the 7.8 catastrophic earthquake; the devastation, the hospitals, the bridge collapses, road closures, the debris, the casualties and deaths, all of that science is providing us with an opportunity to test our response capabilities to how we would respond in an actual event. The USGS has provided us with an opportunity to use actual science on which to base our responses and our play, exercise play, if you will.

So itís very different for us because we can play too and we can tell the public that weíre playing to an actual probability of occurrence that these things are probably going to actually occur. And that is very unique to this type of exercise activity.

Speaker 6: This is, without a doubt, the most comprehensive, most interdisciplinary, most detailed scenario for any natural or technological disaster thatís ever been written. And it really should serve as a prototype or a starting place from everything else that comes after it.


Speaker 7: We are in charge of putting on an exercise to test first-responder capabilities. We needed the science to actually make that plan happen. And thatís where the USGS came in, and thatís where the partnership began. If you have that science in place, if you know where the areas are that are going to be more likely to need first-responder services, thatís where the science comes in. If youíre just sort of putting something out as a blanket and sending first-responders everywhere, thatís not realistic and thatís not going to give the people of California and the people of the United States of America the best bank for the buck when it comes to emergency response.

Speaker 8: When you talk about science or what the science of The Great ShakeOut scenario does for me is it puts things in perspective.


When I gaze out my window, I realized that every building, every high rise I can see from the 15th floor here in City Hall and Los Angeles will be impacted by this catastrophic earthquake. The science of The Great ShakeOut has allowed me to bring that perspective home.

Speaker 9: Here we are in Los Angeles, 50 miles away from where the earthquake would begin in the ShakeOut scenario. Buildings all along Southern California would be impacted in a large earthquake.

Speaker 10: For ShakeOut, for the first time, we went through a process of calculating the ground motions and then reviewing those with structural engineers. That was really unique. And prior to this study, we had had differences of opinion about what the ground motions would be and whether tall buildings might collapse. What we achieved here was a new level of understanding of the ground motions and also agreement with structural engineering experts that tall building collapses are quite a realistic possibility and a big one on the San Andreas.


As the earthquake progresses along the Fault, first, the waves are going to hit Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley within about 30 seconds. Damaging shaking will continue for about a minute there. And as thatís occurring, the rupture keeps going that hits San Bernardino next, shakes for about a minute there. After about a minute from the beginning of the earthquake, downtown LA is going to be shaken by about 6 feet per second, kind of, ground motions for a full minute.

This damaging shaking is going to hit all of Southern California. It will be felt all the way down, even as far away as San Diego very strongly. So the pattern of shaking is concentrated along the Fault, but even areas distant from the Fault will receive damaging levels of shaking.

The main thing we know we could do with an early warning system is trigger automated systems to shut off. We also know that schoolchildren who are very well trained on drop, cover, hold on drills will have to react and get to a safe place if they are provided with an early warning alert.


So those are our biggest hopes and we think that the technology is there and that this is something that could be done. Itís been, for me, really rewarding to make the connection with not only the emergency managers but the utilities and Lifeline operators here in Southern California in a completely new way. Weíve connected with them and we just feel that the earthquake research that weíve all been doing for decades has been made societally-relevant to the point where these connections are just happening right now. Weíve not only met people but worked with them. We know that theyíre taking action to make Southern California safer as a result of the ShakeOut exercise.

Speaker 11: One of the things that we really appreciate from USGS is the fact that they are giving us tools to actually look at what could happen during this event. And if by using those tools and some of the science that they put into this, itís really helped us as far as toning in on the various issues that we want to look at and how we can do things better.


For instance, the water issue as far as what type of pipelines are broken. Thatís really going to be really important to this earthquake because a lot of areas are going to be affected and have no water. And based on their science and some of the things that theyíve looked at and the type of piping that we use, thatís important to us know where weíre going to need to really help people as far as getting water to them, making sure they have proper sewage issues taken care of.

Speaker 12: We are also very excited to launch after the drill on November 14, Aftershock. And this is an online game. Here in this case, we are taking the ShakeOut scenario, the heart science. And we are making it the foundation for a simulation that will allow people on a daily basis again to practice skills and be in situations that we know will occur.


Speaker 13: The reason the science and the ShakeOut scenario that really plan our exercise. The science from it is helping us figure out damage in real life, what it would be. Itís not just made up information. Critical infrastructure impacts to a water or roads or communications infrastructure. All thatís coming up based on science and scenario and itís a huge asset for us.

Speaker 14: Itís really amazing that people are responding to how important the situation is based on the detail they know. Weíve been telling them for 30 years about the probability and about what to do. But having the science is really getting people inspired to do something.

Speaker 15: What inspires me the most is the level of cooperation between different sciences and engineers, and the coming together of just a mass of volunteers to work on this.


It was an avalanche of people who wanted to work on this. The best people in their disciplines came to give freely; many of them, in fact, most of them to produce this. And then the interest it has created in the emergency response community and the private sector and with organizations that need to deal with earthquake disaster losses.

Speaker 16: I am incredibly happy. Itís a funny thing to say about earthquakes, but how Southern California has embraced this project. When we got started, we knew we were doing the right thing. We knew that as scientists, we understood things about the earthquake that if the community understood would lead to action and lead to improve safety, with lead to lives saved. And we had to find a way to share that information in a way that could actually be used. And thatís where the scenario came from. And I knew it was the right thing to do. And I was really hoping that weíd see some companies take hold of this, that the emergency managers would really be incorporating this in their planning.


And weíve seen that and so much more. People are using this information and it makes all the science worthwhile because itís actually going to change the outcomes. This is your problem. And what all of our lives are like after the big earthquake is determined by the decisions youíre making now and the actions you take before the earthquake. You have an individual for your own earthquake safety but you are also part of a bigger community. And what each of us decides to do affect what all of our lives are going to be like after the event so do your part.


Title: How Science Helps Communities Survive Earthquakes


Earthquakes can be far more than just geological phenomena--they can greatly alter the way we live.

In this video, "The Great Southern California ShakeOut: An Earthquake Scenario Based On Science," USGS scientists and their partners talk about the ways science is used to help build safer communities in Southern California.

Location: CA, USA

Date Taken: 11/12/2008

Length: 15:03

Video Producer: USGS CoreCast , U.S. Geological Survey

Note: This video has been released into the public domain by the U.S. Geological Survey for use in its entirety. Some videos may contain pieces of copyrighted material. If you wish to use a portion of the video for any purpose, other than for resharing/reposting the video in its entirety, please contact the Video Producer/Videographer listed with this video. Please refer to the USGS Copyright section for how to credit this video.


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