|Scientists today unveiled a
hypothetical Scenario describing how a magnitude 7.8 Southern
California earthquake —similar to the recent earthquake in China— would
impact the region, causing loss of lives and massive damage to
infrastructure, including critical transportation, power, and water
In the Scenario, the earthquake would kill 1800 people, injure 50,000,
cause $200 billion in damage, and have long-lasting social and economic
consequences. This is the most comprehensive analysis ever of what a
major Southern California earthquake would mean, and is the scientific
framework for what will be the largest earthquake preparedness drill in
California history, scheduled for November 13, 2008.
The November preparedness exercise, “Golden Guardian ’08,” will test
the ability of emergency responders to deal with the impact of a
magnitude 7.8 earthquake on the San Andreas Fault in Southern
California, and is being jointly organized by the Governor’s Office of
Emergency Services and the California Office of Homeland Security. The
Golden Guardian exercise will occur during a week-long series of public
events planned for the “Great Southern California ShakeOut.” A June 4th
kick-off event is planned for the “ShakeOut” to help communities plan
to respond to the risks highlighted in the Scenario.
The scientific report describing the ShakeOut
Scenario, jointly published by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
and the California Geological Survey (CGS), will be released today
during a Congressional hearing in Washington, D.C. The House Committee
on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, led
by Chairman Jim Costa (D-CA), will hold an oversight hearing on USGS
efforts to prepare for future earthquakes, at 10:00 a.m. EDT in Room
1324, Longworth House Office Building.
Although imaginary, the Shakeout
Scenario is based on scientists’ best predictions of what would
actually occur during and after a major earthquake on the San Andreas
The Scenario outlines a hypothetical earthquake in which:
The strongest shaking and greatest damage is near the stretch of
the San Andreas Fault that extends through the fastest growing areas of
Southern California, including the Coachella Valley, Inland Empire and
• At least 10 million people will be exposed to heavy
shaking. California's efforts at mitigation have concentrated on life
safety and have been largely successful. Thus, in spite of the large
numbers of people in highly shaken areas, deaths are estimated at only
• Building types known to be vulnerable to damage and
collapse, do indeed sustain major damage. All un-reinforced masonry
buildings within 15 miles of the San Andreas Fault are completely
destroyed. Those that are not retrofitted kill many occupants. Many
other older building types without retrofitting contribute to over $33
billion in damage to buildings.
• The fault offsets all lifelines crossing into
Southern California at Cajon Pass (Interstate 15), San Gorgonio Pass
(Interstate 10) and along Route 14, including pipelines, power lines,
roads, railways, telecommunications and aqueducts.
• Strong shaking continues in downtown Los Angeles
for 55 seconds – nearly 8 times longer than in the Northridge Earthquake
• The prolonged, strong shaking heavily damages and
sometimes collapses hundreds of old brick buildings, thousands of older
commercial and industrial concrete buildings, many wood-frame
buildings, and even a few, high-rise steel buildings. Over 600,000
buildings suffer at least some damage that causes tens of thousands of
injuries and hundreds of deaths, and leaves many thousands of people
without homes or jobs.
• Fire doubles the fatalities and economic losses.
Around Southern California, there will be 1,600 fires started large
enough to warrant a 911 call, and some fires merge into conflagrations
that burn hundreds of city blocks. Assuming no Santa Ana winds, the
models still indicate a further $65 billion in direct losses and $22
billion in indirect losses from the fires.
• Nearly two thirds of the hospital beds are
non-functional in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino
counties. At the same time, 50,000 people will seek treatment at
• Thanks to a $6 billion investment in seismic
safety, the State highway system fares well. However, although collapse
is avoided, some bridges are non-functional so that much of the highway
is not passable on the day of the event. The long duration of shaking
takes a greater toll on bridges and overpasses under the jurisdiction
of cities and counties where the retrofitting processes are not
complete or have not begun.
• The largest long-term economic disruption comes
from damage to the water distribution system. Damage to this system
will be so extensive that some areas will have to replace the whole
system, and some buildings will be without water for as long as 6
months. The direct and indirect business interruption costs attributed
to the lack of water will be $50 billion.
• Most of the damage is predictable and much is
preventable. Individuals can protect themselves and help their
- Storing more water
than they already have
- Keeping a fire extinguisher and knowing how to use it.
- Securing their space. This means securing building contents from
flying around and reinforcing a building they own to the most current
“The planned emergency drill is underpinned by the most comprehensive
analysis ever of what a major Southern California earthquake would mean
on the ground,” said Dr. Lucile Jones, chief scientist for U.S.
Geological Survey’s Southern California Multi-Hazards Demonstration
Project. “We know this science will help state and local agencies
develop comprehensive emergency-response plans that will help us avoid
the worst impacts of a major quake.”
Scenario is the product of an interdisciplinary collaboration of
over 300 scientists, engineers, and other experts from several
agencies, including the USGS, the California Geological Survey,
Southern California Earthquake Center, California Office of Emergency
Services and Seismic Safety Commission.
To create the Scenario, geologists determined the amount of potential
motion on the part of the San Andreas Fault with the greatest risk of
imminent rupture, a 200-mile long section from the Salton Sea in the
Coachella Valley to just south of Gorman. From this, seismologists and
computer scientists modeled the ground shaking. Engineers and building
professionals used the models of ground shaking to estimate damage to
the built environment. And from these damages, social scientists
evaluated emergency response, casualties, and the impact on our economy
The following scientists and engineers led the development of
individual sections of the ShakeOut
Scenario. They were responsible for bringing together the
appropriate team of experts to analyze that aspect of the earthquake,
leading the investigations and ensuring that the final document was
written. Each of them can speak to the goals of the Scenario, the main
results and the details of their expertise. They can be reached by
contacting the USGS.
Dr. Lucy Jones,
Seismologist, USGS, Chief Scientist
Dr. Kenneth Hudnut, Geologist, USGS, Geologic setting and ground motion
Dr. Keith Porter, Engineer, University of Colorado, Physical Damages
Dr. Daniel Ponti, Geologist, USGS, Secondary Hazards
Ms. Hope Seligson, Engineer, MMI Engineering, HAZUS and loss estimation
Dr. Kimberley Shoaf, Public Health Scientist, UCLA School of Public
Health, Mortality and morbidity
Dr. Michael Reichle, Chief Seismologist (ret.), California Geological
Dr. Dennis S. Mileti, Sociologist, California Seismic Safety
Commission, Emergency Response
Dr. James Goltz, Social Psychologist, California Office of Emergency
Services, Emergency Response
Dr. Richard Bernknopf, Economist, USGS, Economics
Dr. Anne Wein, Decision Scientist, USGS, Economics
Mr. Dale A. Cox, Project Manager, USGS
A copy of the full technical report, The
ShakeOut Scenario, is available online at http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2008/1150.
A non-technical summary narrative of the Scenario is online at http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/1324/.
Paper copies of the narrative are available by request.
High resolution images, and a computer animation showing the earthquake
rupture and its waves of energy spreading across Southern California
are online at http://urbanearth.usgs.gov/shakeout.