110 years later, why the San Francisco Earthquake still matters
The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 was one of the most important geologic events of our time. Shaking damage destroyed many buildings, but it was the fires caused by severed gas lines during the earthquake that caused the city to burn for days after the shaking had stopped. More than 3,000 people are estimated to have died as a result, as well as 225,000 survivors left homeless by the 28,000 buildings that were destroyed. Check out the photo collections in these archives.
The earthquake itself was significant at an M7.8, but the damage it caused put into motion more intense focus on the study of earthquakes. This disaster spurred a movement for more scientific study of the geology and fault systems in California and eventually other locations along the coast. Read more about the “Dawn of Scientific Revolution” from the USGS.
How we are preparing for the next “big one”
To try and mitigate damage and loss of life, a coalition of scientists are working toward implementing an early warning system in California, Oregon, and Washington. Earthquake early warning (EEW) systems can measure earthquakes fast enough to transmit an alarm to cell phones and other reception sites to give valuable seconds of warning to prepare for the disaster.
According to the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program, a few seconds could give us enough time to:
- Public: Citizens, including schoolchildren, drop, cover, and hold on; turn off stoves, safely stop vehicles.
- Businesses: Personnel move to safe locations, automated systems ensure elevators doors are open, production lines are shut down, sensitive equipment is placed in a safe mode.
- Medical services: Surgeons, dentists, and others stop delicate procedures.
- Emergency responders: Open firehouse doors, personnel prepare and prioritize response decisions.
- Power infrastructure: Protect power stations and grid facilities from strong shaking.
As always, check out our Earthquakes and faults webpage to learn more about Washington’s mapped faults, and what to do before, during, and after an earthquake.