Pay a Little Now, or a Lot Later

Odds are 2-in-3 that at least one disastrous earthquake will strike the San Francisco Bay Area before 2020. Faced with this threat, corporations and government agencies have stepped up efforts that will reduce future losses by billions of dollars.

When the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake struck the San Francisco Bay Area, it revealed the vulnerability of a major metropolitan area to the damage and death that can result from a major earthquake. Unfortunately, Loma Prieta did not reduce the chances for future large earthquakes and even more devastation in the Bay Area. In 1990 the U.S. Geological Survey issued a report presenting geologic evidence for one or more destructive earthquakes to occur before the year 2020. This report served as a call to action for companies and government agencies to intensify efforts to reduce future losses. As shown in the following examples, considerable effort and millions of dollars are being spent now to save lives and billions later.

CalTrans (Click on image for a full size version - 91K)
CALTRANS' strengthening of the intersection of two major Bay Area freeways- I-280 overpass of U.S. 101 in San Francisco.


Utilities are spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year to safeguard critical "lifeline" transportation, power, water, and communication systems.

California Department of Transportation (CALTRANS)

East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD)

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E)

Pacific Bell Telephone (PacBell)

Next Big EQ Newspaper Insert (Click on image for a full size version - 111K)
This U.S. Geological Survey pamphlet alerted Bay Area residents to the 2-in-3 chance for a major earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area and assisted them in preparing for future shocks. More than 3 million copies in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Braille editions have been distributed.


Local governments are using hundreds of millions of dollars of general obligation bonds, approved by 2/3 of voters, to strengthen critical public facilities and to train employees and citizens to respond effectively to earthquakes.



San Francisco

San Leandro


Bolting (Click on image for a full size version - 66K)
Homeowners in San Leandro strengthening their residences-installing expansion bolt to secure wood frame to concrete foundation (left) and nailing plywood to reinforce cripple wall (right).


Corporations are protecting their employees and facilities from earthquakes and taking steps to minimize the disruption of their business operations.





Hewlett-Packard Bldg (Click on image for a full size version - 108K)
Steel bracing (red beams) added to strengthen a Hewlett-Packard concrete-frame fuilding in Santa Clara, CA.

Through improved understanding of past earthquakes, earth scientists have refined estimates of the high likelihood for an imminent destructive earthquake in the Bay Area. As shown by the preceding examples, this information has motivated many communities and corporations to prepare. By planning for emergencies, by training people in what actions to take, and by strengthening facilities with improved seismic resistance, we can better survive earthquakes. The cost of these preparations, which will reduce losses during the next big earthquake, is a small fraction of what would be spent without them.

William H. Bakun

U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet-169-95 1995