Urge Governor Brown to enact AB 2681: Seismic Safety - Potentially Vulnerable Buildings

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How vulnerable is California to the destructive force of a major earthquake?

A bill calling for a statewide inventory of seismically vulnerable buildings is awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature to enact it into law. AB 2681, (Nazarian), is an important first step to assessing the real risks facing California communities, the Seismic Resilience Initiative and U.S. Resiliency Council announced today.

“This bill will begin an important conversation about how to save lives and protect the overall well-being of our state,” said U.S. Resiliency Council Executive Director Evan Reis, whose organization is part of the SRI working group. “California’s wildfires could not make the point more clearly: With the costs of these fires now totally more than $250 million, we are paying an enormous price for not fully understanding or being more proactive in addressing risks before disaster strikes”

AB 2681 directs cities and counties in areas of high seismic activity to identify buildings vulnerable to serious damage or collapse in a major earthquake. The information will be provided to the Office of Emergency Services to create a statewide inventory that can be used on the state and local level for emergency planning.

The bill passed the State Senate and Assembly with bipartisan support. It has gained support from the mayors of Los Angeles, Oakland, and other cities across the state, as well as from California’s structural engineering research community and professional, business, environmental, and housing organizations. 

“In recent times, we really haven’t taken too many proactive steps to ensure that we are prepared for a major catastrophic earthquake event,” said Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian. “There are major environmental issues, there are major life-threatening issues, there are major economic impacts and the list can go on and on.”

With seismologists insisting that a major quake is overdue, city leaders see the bill as necessary to inform communities so they can manage risk and prepare for threats to public safety.

“Californians have a right to be informed about the safety and post-earthquake usability of the buildings in which they live and work based on the best information available,” David Friedman, President of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, wrote in a letter of support to the Governor. “Cities need this information to plan against loss of life, economic devastation, and the chaos of a seismic disaster.”

City representatives agreed: “The number one responsibility of government is to protect its citizens and guard against threats that may harm them," said Tom Robinson, a certified management consultant with 41 years of experience in city leadership, including many years as a city manager for California cities. 

"Those concerned with enhancing the safety of Californians understand this legislation will provide important information enabling cities to better mitigate threats before earthquakes occur," he said. "Preventing the loss of lives and property is the essence of responsible leadership."

Total cost of the program is estimated at $2 million to $3 million for Cal OES, and no more than $15 million for local jurisdictions statewide, Reis said. The many benefits of AB 2681 include:

  • Social well-being: Knowing a structure is at-risk of failure in an earthquake is the first step to protecting vulnerable buildings that make up much of the state’s more affordable housing stock, and of avoiding widespread homelessness that may result from a major quake.
  • Economic stability: Studies indicate that an earthquake disaster in California would trigger up to $289 billion in economic loss. Reconstruction costs alone are estimated at up to $113 billion.
  • Environmental health: Many seismically vulnerable buildings contain asbestos and lead, which, when released into the air and groundwater from crumbled rubble will burden landfills and pose a public health problem of potentially overwhelming impacts.

“Earthquakes, in a matter of seconds, can shatter entire communities, leaving large numbers of people homeless and displaced,” said Alisha Wilkins, board member of the Fair Housing Council. “This is important legislation for everyone. It is essential to protecting the social fabric of our communities.”


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