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Los Angeles wants new cell towers to work in big quakes

A cell phone tower rises above the trees in this June 25, 2001 file photo taken in Sudbury, Massachusetts. The Los Angeles City Council voted 11-0 on Friday, May 8, 2015, to approve legislation requiring that towers not attached to buildings have the same seismic resistance as public safety facilities.
A cell phone tower rises above the trees in this June 25, 2001 file photo taken in Sudbury, Massachusetts. The Los Angeles City Council voted 11-0 on Friday, May 8, 2015, to approve legislation requiring that towers not attached to buildings have the same seismic resistance as public safety facilities.
Darren McCollester/Getty Images

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Los Angeles is close to becoming the first city in the nation to set down earthquake safety standards for cell phone towers.

The L.A. City Council voted 11-0 Friday to approve a law that would require new cellphone towers be strong enough to withstand big earthquakes and continue working even if the wireless networks are overwhelmed with calls.

The move is part of an effort to strengthen the communications grid for the day when "the big one" hits L.A.

"Our modern economic system needs telecommunications," Dr. Lucy Jones with the U.S. Geological Survey told KPCC. "We are recognizing here that telecommunications is a critical need of society, and we need them to be working after the earthquake as well."

Jones, who serves as Mayor Eric Garcetti's science advisor on seismic activity, told KPCC that the law applies only to new towers, not the hundreds that are already in operation across the city.

The proposal is up for a second round of voting on May 15, after which, if passed, it will go to the mayor for final approval.

This story has been updated.