Experts believe that more than 640 buildings throughout the Inland Empire are capable of collapsing in the case of a major earthquake.
The Inland Empire is an area east of Los Angeles that consists of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. Three of California’s most hazardous faults—the San Jacinto, the Cucamonga and the San Andreas, intersect in this area. To understand how serious this is, consider the fact that the San Andreas fault is easily capable of giving off a magnitude 8 earthquake.
The soil that lies underneath the Inland Empire is not ideal for earthquake safety. The area is built upon a basin that consists of loose sediment. The ground would rock in such a way that would resemble a bowl of jelly if a serious earthquake happened.
Unreinforced masonry buildings are extremely unsafe when it comes to earthquakes. Even a moderate earthquake can crumble an unreinforced brick building. Unreinforced brick buildings make up a large cause of deaths in earthquakes. In 1933, 120 people died in Long Beach when brick buildings collapsed upon people. The Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 and the Sylmar Earthquake of 1971 also testified to the dangers of unreinforced brick buildings. In 2003, a 6.5 earthquake that hit Paso Robles resulted in two people who were crushed under collapsed buildings.
Retrofitting brick buildings involves steel beams, braces and rods to support bricks in such a way where bricks would not come apart from shaking. The cost of retrofitting a building can cost from about $30,000 to $100,000.
The Inland Empire is generally a less glitzy area with a high percentage of lower-income people. This is one of the reasons why change has been slow to come. Business owners claim that the costs of retrofitting are too much, and that they should not be forced to flip the bill for such improvements. They don’t believe that preparing for a big earthquake is a priority, and that there are more important things to think about, like the area’s not-so-great economy. There is no public funding to help these businesses retrofit.
Throughout California, the amount of unreinforced brick buildings varies per city and neighborhood. In Rancho Cucamonga, only one fenced off unreinforced building remains. In Redlands, 74 addresses are known to be unreinforced. In Los Angeles, only three unretrofitted buildings still stand after several decades of hunting down 8,080 unretrofitted buildings.