Napa quake a wake-up call for Southern California

The Napa earthquake should remind L.A. to get ready for the Big One

The 6.0 earthquake that rattled Napa on Sunday morning should remind Los Angeles city officials and residents to take stock of their preparations for the bigger earthquake that someday will roil Southern California.

To their credit, city officials are approaching this with more urgency than they were a year ago. An inventory of soft-story wood-frame apartment buildings that may be vulnerable to collapse in a quake is well underway, and similar efforts to identify concrete buildings that need retrofitting should be close behind.

In Napa, 90 water mains broke. In Los Angeles, that kind of damage could hamper firefighters and cut off water for days. However, there are pilot projects underway here to install seismic-resistant water pipes developed in Japan. Figuring out how to protect water mains must be a top priority, says seismologist Lucy Jones, whom Mayor Eric Garcetti appointed this year as his advisor for seismic safety.

In the area of communications, Jones believes the city's cellphone towers are generally strong enough to withstand a quake and not collapse onto people. The bigger question is what it will take to keep cellphone service from collapsing.

She is preparing a comprehensive seismic study for the mayor that should be completed in October and should allow the region to evaluate its readiness. Residents should do the same. As Jones notes, however much water you have tucked away at home, you need more.

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