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Friday, 29 July 2011

Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country

Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country very accurately describes every person and family that has made the decision to live and work in Christchurch, despite past earthquakes, and with the uncertain prospect of more shakes in the future.

As it happens it is the title of a handbook developed for the San Francisco Bay Region. In recognition of the fact that settling in the San Francisco Bay Region involves exposure to the risk of earthquakes, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) along with a number of local governments and agencies prepared information for residents. The information covers the geological factors and earthquake history of the area, future earthquake scenarios, plus how to prepare for and respond to an earthquake. It even has a section on seismically strengthening your home.

The handbook has a greater depth, breadth, and pragmatism than we have yet to see in New Zealand. Perhaps, one day, CERA or EQC will produce something the same which describes what living in Christchurch means in earthquake terms. In the meantime it is a good place to start for those of us who have decided to stay in Christchurch, or those who want to move here.

The USGS website is here and the handbook in PDF form here.

The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) has an Earthquake and Hazards Program website here (it would make a good model for the councils in Canterbury to follow).

An example of how New Zealand cities vulnerable to earthquakes could help prevent structural hazards in homes is the ABAG Housing Vulnerable to Damage in Earthquakes web page here. What the page contains is an analysis of the problems some building styles and materials present, the damage that can be anticipated as the result of an earthquake, the expected property losses, and what retrofitting could be carried out to reduce the vulnerability. 

I think most of us would anticipate a disinclination amongst local body politicians and senior managers to upset property owners so perhaps CERA and EQC could run a trial in Christchurch to see what can be achieved?

Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country, and similar titles, for other parts of the US can be found here.

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