Although the Los Angeles area's preparedness measures are among the best in the country, the death toll would certainly have been much higher if not for an accident of timing--the temblor hit in the predawn hours of a holiday, when most residents were still in bed. Three new studies sponsored by HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research review damage from the Northridge quake and assess efforts to reduce losses of life and property in future seismic events.
Assessment of Damage to Residential Buildings Caused by the Northridge Earthquake presents the findings of a damage survey of single- family detached houses and multifamily low-rise and single-family attached developments. The study found that major structural damage to residential buildings was unusual, although many multifamily buildings built above an open-air parking garage were severely racked and some collapsed, leading to loss of life.
Performance of HUD-Assisted Properties During the January 17, 1994, Northridge Earthquake analyzes HUD-affiliated, multifamily residences that sustained damage in the earthquake, finding that only 3 percent of the units examined were rendered uninhabitable. Consistent with the findings of HUD's broader assessment of residential structures, the study also observed poor structural performance among wood-frame buildings with a "soft" ground floor.
In Preparing for the "Big One": Saving Lives Through Earthquake Mitigation in Los Angeles, California, HUD expands the scope of its assessment to include schools, hospitals, utility "lifelines," roads, and dams, as well as the local housing stock. This broad synthesis is used to support the report's discussion of the issue now confronting policymakers--how to undertake and sustain mitigation measures that will effectively minimize the human, physical, and economic toll of the next major earthquake.
Through interviews with a variety of individuals responsibly involved in earthquake recovery and mitigation efforts, HUD has identified a number of significant gaps and deficiencies in current mitigation strategies for the Los Angeles area--and beyond. These include:
The three studies discussed above are available from HUD for $4 each. Please contact HUD USER to obtain print copies.