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Lessons Learned after the 2011 Japan Earthquake

Lessons Learned after the 2011 Japan Earthquake

Even before 2011, most would agree that Japan was one of the most prepared countries in the world for an immensely powerful earthquake.  When the 2011 mega-quake hit Japan, however, not only was the quake destructive, it also triggered a huge tsunami that was shockingly devastating.  Most of us can remember the many vivid videos and pictures posted on the daily newscasts and across the Internet.  Today, scientists say the sad and difficult lessons learned from that mega-quake can be used to better prepare for the next BIG ONE.

The March, 2011, earthquake struck off the east coast of Tohoku, and it was a monstrous 9.0 on the Richter scale.  This temblor was the most powerful ever to hit Japan and it was among the five most powerful earthquakes ever recorded.  As a result of this incredible earthquake, a massive tsunami wave formed and slammed into the northeastern shores of the island of Honshu.

Such a massive quake was largely unanticipated by many seismologists at the time.  Those who were doing earthquake research and hazard mitigation throughout Japan were clearly shocked and disheartened because so many people died.  Many people thought that amount of destruction would not happen in Japan with all the work put into earthquake education, research and emergency preparedness.

Lessons learned

The main reason scientists weren’t expecting such a strong earthquake in Japan was the fact that such a powerful earthquake had never before been recorded; seismic predictions based on the known record of earthquakes in Japan simply did not predict such an event.

Even with more than 400 years of historical records, that was not enough data to accurately forecast the mega temblor.  In the aftermath of the Tohoku earthquake, researchers are continuing to make major improvements to earthquake models and forecasting around the globe.  There is now a wealth of information and data available to work with, since no other large earthquake in history has been recorded by such precise equipment.

The data collected from this mega-quake revealed that the ground motions were actually less violent than might have been predicted for such a powerful earthquake. Because there are very stringent building standards in Japan that ensured many structures were designed to withstand strong quakes, the property damage and loss of life from the actual earthquake were not as significant as they could have been.  There are many commercial buildings located in Japan; hidden inside those high rise towers are embedded hydraulic shock absorbers, giant rubber pads and extra steel bracing that make contemporary Japanese buildings among the sturdiest in the world.  Current Japanese building codes, along with earthquake and tsunami drills that have been routine for every Japanese citizen for many years, show why Japan is considered to be the best-prepared country in the world for such natural disasters.

If you are a commercial property owner on the West Coast, especially in southern California, now is the time to consider strengthening your building – before the next BIG ONE strikes on this side of the Pacific Ocean.  If your building is more than fifteen to twenty years old, it should be evaluated for an earthquake retrofit to determine if your building needs to be reinforced.

Considering the damage and destruction that happened in Japan, it is most important to look at the possible risk of injury, death and legal litigation, not to mention the possibility of immense destruction, if the next BIG ONE impacts your commercial property.  The risk of injury to the building occupants, along with damages to equipment and business operations could be considerable.  Property owners can lose substantial amounts of money if it can be proven they were aware a building needed structural work, but had no plan in place to correct the problem. No amount of insurance coverage will probably cover successful litigation against negligence.  A thorough earthquake retrofit provides peace of mind and asset protection because it helps reduce the amount of things that could go wrong.

As a property owner or manager, you have the responsibility to promote the safety and security of your commercial property, including the tenants, machinery and inventory. The professional team at Saunders Commercial Seismic Retrofit can provide a comprehensive and multifaceted evaluation of your Los Angeles building.  In addition, Saunders will provide a retrofit insurance quote based on present and after-retrofitting values so you can easily calculate your Return on Investment. If you have questions about earthquake preparedness or want to know what is the best time to retrofit your building from earthquakes, call Saunders Commercial Seismic Retrofit today!


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