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Report Says SoCal Could Face 'Catastrophe' If We Don't Prepare For The Big One

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A report says that SoCal is unprepared for a massive earth quake, and may face "catastrophe" if steps are not taken to plan for an extremely high-risk scenario, reports the L.A. Times.

One of these scenarios may take place in the Cajon Pass out in San Bernardino. The mountain pass, set right on the San Andreas Fault, is also home to gas and petroleum pipelines, rail ways, and the 15 North. All these utilities will be endangered if one of the pipelines explode and start a raging wildlife. The Times says that it's possible to see an "explosion so powerful it leaves behind a crater."

Speaking with the authors of the report, the Times details a list of actionable steps that could make SoCal, as a whole, more prepared for "inevitable" natural disasters. One of these steps is to install shutoff valves in the pipelines in the Cajon Pass; this may prevent large amounts of fuel from being ignited. Another recommendation is to replace some of the water pipes in the County. While it would be impractical to replace all the pipes in SoCal, it could be important to install "earthquake-resistant, flexible" pipes in key parts of the water system that are important to firefighters.

Not surprisingly, the report also pushed for stronger efforts to retrofit vulnerable buildings. The authors said that retrofitting efforts shouldn't just focus on saving lives, it should also focus on maintaining the building's structural integrity. The report cites the Canterbury earthquakes that happened in New Zealand from 2010-2011; while the buildings in the area met code standards for safety, they weren't strong enough to stay open after the disasters. Money required to fix the buildings—and the money lost due to closed businesses—resulted in a 20 percent loss of New Zealand's GDP.

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The report, Strengthening SoCal: Southern California Disaster Risk Reduction Initiative, was authored by a group of researchers, policy leaders, and utility experts working in conjunction with the USC Bedrosian Center on Governance. One of the main points of the report is that preparedness is not good enough; communities and civic leaders must also focus on the "resiliency" of their communities: "The goal after the disaster is for the region to be open for business, able to get back up and running in the shortest amount of time and not extend the restoration period."

The Times said that, for instance, banks should consider adopting ways to keep running after a disaster has struck (like installing backup generators). Without banks, local companies may languish, which may produce a domino effect of economic failure.

Also, as noted in the report, ties within a community must be nurtured to foster resiliency. The authors pointed to local initiatives such as the Neighborhood Watch as models for programs that build resiliency against natural disasters. The report suggests that the government and local businesses should incentivize these programs. If we are to pull ourselves out of a massive natural disaster, the report says, neighbors should be able to look to each other for help.

"No one is going to come in and 'rescue' our communities, and government can't solve the preparedness and mitigation aspects of this problem alone. We can't wait for others to give direction or resources—we must take the reins ourselves," the report states.

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