California Earthquake Resiliency Bill Will Help Identify Seismically Vulnerable Structures

The U.S. Resiliency Council has called on state legislators to support AB 2681, a bill in the appropriations committee that will assist cities in identifying their most seismically vulnerable structures.

“Local governments and emergency response teams have a responsibility to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their communities when preparing for unforeseen events,” says USRC Executive Director Evan Reis.

AB 2681, (Nazarian), will provide cities with the funding and tools they need to identify dangers to their communities and infrastructure, and the people, services and businesses that are their most important social and economic assets.

“Good risk management and governance not only helps to save lives and reduce injuries, it promotes social, economic and environmental sustainability through resilience,” Reis adds.

AB 2681 will help with the following:

Social benefits of AB 2681

  • Protect affordable housing: The bulk of our vulnerable buildings are represented by older structures that make up a broad swath of our state’s more affordable housing stock.
  • Shield communities from chaos: Projected loss of housing will leave hundreds of thousands of people homeless and in need of refuge.
  • Inform the public about personal risks: People have a right to make decisions about the buildings in which they live and work based on the best available information. Identifying and evaluating potentially vulnerable buildings is one step toward engaging stakeholders about the importance of creating more resilient cities.
  • Promote social justice: Most of those impacted by a major quake will be lower-income residents whose lives and livelihoods will be disproportionately impacted due to their economic and social status.

Economic benefits of AB 2681

  • Preserve economic stability: Widespread homelessness and resulting joblessness will trigger billions of dollars of economic loss to communities and the state.
  • Protect small businesses: Small businesses, which occupy many of these vulnerable buildings, make up 99.2 percent of California’s economy. Most would be unable to survive even temporary impacts from a loss of building space or workforce availability.
  • Guard against enormous recovery costs: The Great ShakeOut estimates are that a major quake would require $113 billion in reconstruction costs alone. These predictions surpass the impacts of Hurricane Katrina.

Environmental benefits of AB 2681

  • Protect public health: Many of these older buildings contain asbestos and lead, which, when released into the air and groundwater from crumbled rubble will pose a public health problem.
  • Preserve groundwater supply: The leaching of these toxic materials will have a negative impact on local groundwater supplies, further exacerbating the state’s ongoing water crisis.
  • Defend native and endangered species: Asbestos, lead and other toxic substances released into the environment will travel downstream, creating a toxic threat to native and endangered species in waterways, wetland areas and the ocean.
  • Avert potential landfill crises: California lacks the landfill capacity needed to dispose of the ruins and debris resulting from a major earthquake.

“AB 2681 will help cities identify buildings in their jurisdiction that could be at risk during a major quake in order that they can develop long term strategies to protect the lives and the livelihoods of their residents,” Reis says. “The cost of implementing AB 2681 is expected to be less than one-hundredth of one percent of the social, property and economic losses that could occur if the big one strikes. Isn’t that an investment worth making?”

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