Fault: The new study suggests a local earthquake could be significantly larger than previously thought. Courtesy image

This year’s upcoming Great Shakeout earthquake preparedness drills in Santa Monica will be informed by the fact that the Palos Verdes fault off the city’s coast is capable of producing up to a 7.8 magnitude quake, significantly larger than previously thought. 

Santa Monica Emergency Services Administrator Steven Torres says that while the city continuously evaluates and incorporates new information into emergency response plans and practices, like the Shakeout, the new study doesn’t change much in regards to the city’s general earthquake preparation.

“The way the city plans for earthquakes is more of an all hazards approach,” he said. “So, what we like to do is make sure that we don’t single out a specific fault because we understand that seismic impacts can happen from hundreds of miles away versus ones that are just right off the coast.”

One of the measures the city has in place to respond to emergencies like earthquakes is a wireless alert system that sends notifications to people’s phones in the case of a significant event. The system is similar to Amber alerts and sends notifications based on their location, which Torrence said is important in a tourism destination like Santa Monica. 

“So what we do is looking at our residents number one, but also our businesses and our tourists,” he said. “We know that during an emergency if there’s an earthquake, we’re going to have to take care of those people who find themselves in our town as well, so we’ve basically automated all of our operations to take into consideration upwards of 250,000 people in the city.”

Torrence added that new buildings in the city are being constructed with earthquake resilience in mind and that many older ones have undergone or are in the process of receiving a seismic retrofit to allow them to be better prepared for larger earthquakes, including the Main branch of the public library. 

“The Main Library has been up-fitted with an early earthquake warning system,” he said. “So in the event that a seismic wave is being detected, that building would get a notification prior to the actual earthquake or seismic event actually hitting that location.”

In addition to the City’s efforts, Torrence stressed the importance of individuals taking emergency prep into their own hands and taking measures to ensure they are equipped to deal with a potential earthquake and the fallout. 

“We’d like to make sure everyone is prepared in a personal manner, meaning having access to functional needs,” he said. “Like myself, I wear glasses, so I take those things into consideration when I’m preparing for any type of emergency. 

He added that with heavy dependence on technology to store information, it’s important to write important things down and keep them in a secure location so, in the case of a power failure following a disaster, that information is still accessible. 

Torrence said it’s also important to remember that an earthquake could happen at any time and the new study is not cause for additional concern, but should serve as a reminder to take precautions. 

“There is no panic that should ensue because of this new fault,” he said. “The fault could have given a 7.8 even before this report… These are things that we always need to be prepared for and just make sure we’re ready no matter where we are.”

The Great Shakeout will be on Oct. 20 this year during which earthquake drills will take place across the state. More information on earthquake preparedness in Santa Monica can be found on the city’s Office of Emergency Management website: https://www.smgov.net/Departments/OEM/WhatToDo/Earthquake.aspx.

grace@smdp.com