Seismologists Say 5.4 Earthquake a Wake-Up Call

Listen to story

Download this story 0.0MB

No deaths so far from the earthquake. No major damage to infrastructure. But KPCC's Brian Watt spoke with seismologists who say the quake is a wakeup call.

Brian Watt: About an hour after the earthquake, seismologist Kate Hutton said what interested her most about it was that it was the strongest earthquake to hit a populated Southland area in more than 10 years.

Kate Hutton: People had forgotten (laughs), I think, what earthquakes feel like. We had.

Watt: By "we," she means her colleagues at Caltech who track area earthquakes and update the media on their facts and figures.

Hutton: We should probably look at it as an earthquake drill. I mean it's a drill for the Big One that will be coming some day.

Watt: With a magnitude of 5.4, this was not the big one. At least, Hutton said, not for Southern California.

Hutton: There are parts of the world where a 5.4 can be a serious disaster. If there is no building construction requirements for earthquake resistance, you know, and buildings are built out of stone, or adobe, or something like that, then there can be collapses in a quake this size.

Watt: Susan Hough, Scientist in Charge at the U.S. Geological Survey, says California's buildings don't see damage from a moderate earthquake like this one because of better building codes. But...

Susan Hough: That shouldn't give people the false sense of security that, 'Oh, we're safe, we've got building codes,' because this was a moderate quake in the scheme of things, and we know that there's a whole lot bigger earthquakes out there and there are people who are concerned about how our built structure is gonna respond to that.

Watt: Hough recommends that everyone prepare themselves and their homes for an earthquake. She's practicing what she preaches. In November, the USGS joins the City of L.A. and others for a drill. They'll practice how to respond to an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8.