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San Andreas – Is a 9.6 Magnitude Earthquake Really Possible?

San Andreas – Is a 9.6 Magnitude Earthquake Really Possible?

Earlier this year, many movie enthusiasts saw the blockbuster hit San Andreas at local theaters around the country.  Watching this disaster movie on the big screen provided a thrilling, edge-of-your-seat experience for all.  Although the storyline and computer graphics ensured entertainment for all, viewers were well aware that it was just a movie, not a true life occurrence.  In fact, most folks left the theater with no concerns about what would or could happen if a major temblor occurred on California today

San Andreas does, in fact, portray many things correctly in terms of earthquake science and safety.  Regarding earthquake science, in the movie Dr. Hayes gives accurate information about the tectonic plates that make up the Earth’s crust and he accurately describes the boundary of the North American plate and the Pacific Plate, known as the San Andreas Fault.  In addition, he gives a good description of past earthquakes that could be described as the “Big Ones.”  The movie also showed that a powerful earthquake can trigger additional temblors outside the area of the original seismic activity.

Regarding the important subject of earthquake safety, San Andreas strongly promoted ”Drop, Cover and Hold On”, the international message for self-protection.  Californians are well-aware of this concept, as children learn about and practice it regularly as a school drill and many businesses participate in annual drills to ensure employee safety.  San Andreas also depicts people panicking and exiting buildings, subsequently getting injured, just as it would happen in real life.  On the hand, the movie shows many folks acting more sensibly, staying calm to help those in need.  While “Drop, Cover and Hold On” is the most important lesson to learn before a powerful earthquake strikes, the movie demonstrates the importance of prior first aid training and having emergency preparedness plans in place.

Scientists have determined that a 9.6 magnitude earthquake, as it is described in the movie, is not possible on the San Andreas Fault.  Historically, the strongest known earthquakes measured at approximately 7.9 magnitude.  One temblor, the devastating San Francisco quake of 1906, occurred on the northern portion of the San Andreas Fault; in the mid-nineteenth century, the Fort Tejon quake occurred on the southern end of the fault.  Based on current computer models, researchers believe that the San Andreas Fault cannot produce seismic activity with a magnitude over 8.3.  Thankfully, the 9.6 magnitude mega-quake is purely fictional; such a quake, in real life, would be 90 times more powerful than the largest one possible along the San Andreas Fault.

Many earthquake experts are predicting a “Big One” along the San Andreas Fault at some point in the next thirty years.  Whether the magnitude is 7.9, or even 8.3, such a quake will cause major damage, many injuries and probably a large number of fatalities.  If you are a commercial property owner in San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area, now is the time to make sure that your building can withstand a violent earthquake – before the “Big One” strikes.

If your building is more than 30 years old, there is a good chance that your building will be vulnerable during a powerful temblor and should go through an earthquake retrofit.  In order to ensure the safety of your building’s occupants (tenants, employees and customers), have your building inspected for any weaknesses, sooner rather than later, and schedule the maintenance necessary to strengthen it before a powerful earthquake occurs.  For more information about earthquake retrofitting or to schedule a building inspection for your Bay Area property, call the experts at Saunders Commercial Earthquake Retrofit before it is too late!

Northern California Office

(408) 267-3876

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