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Imagining the Unthinkable – In Detail
Released: 5/7/2007 3:13:18 PM

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
Stephanie Hanna 1-click interview
Phone: (206) 818-7411

If you lived through the magnitude 6.7 Northridge earthquake in 1994 you know what a mere seven seconds of shaking can do.  Could you imagine over two minutes of intense shaking?  Scientists can.

"When it comes to natural hazards, southern Californians are at great risk," says Lucy Jones, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Coordinator of the new USGS Multi-Hazards Demonstration Project. "We all know this. Earthquakes, wildfires, floods, tsunamis, landslides and coastal erosion are inevitable and its time to look at them closely and prepare."

Scientists from around the Nation are being pulled together by the USGS to work with community partners in a new effort to imagine the worst - in detail - so that communities can plan for it.  One of the first projects of the USGS Project is to create a plausible earthquake scenario for Southern California.  That scenario will look very closely at the secondary hazards that result from "The Big One." 

"It's not just a major earthquake that will harm people or local economies.  It will be the impact of landslides, fires, and collapsed infrastructure," says Jones.  "These are what take a disaster into the realm of catastrophe."

The USGS is bringing together scientific experts with multiple specialties to partner with communities in Southern California in an effort to reduce death and destruction from natural hazards. Estimates of expected losses from these hazards may exceed $3 billion per year in the eight counties of southern California. 

"Los Angeles has long recognized that, not only are we multi-cultural but we are multi-hazards as well. Unfortunately it took Katrina to let others realize that natural disasters are as devastating as man-made disasters," said Ellis Stanley, General Manager of City of Los Angeles Emergency Preparedness Department. "One of the brightest spots in the collaborative process is the relationships and interaction with our USGS partners-in-preparedness as we move forward to truly make our community more disaster resilient,"

The devastating consequences, including loss of life and injury, replacement costs of buildings and infrastructure, loss of function of critical facilities like hospitals and schools, service and infrastructure outages, business interruption, loss of jobs, and a decrease in the quality of life.

With a population estimated at nearly 23 million, the costs of natural hazards risks are growing along with population at more than 10 percent per year in the eight counties of southern California.  Decision-making in such a dynamic environment is difficult and emergency managers and planners are looking to science for help.

"The USGS's new multi-hazard program is a welcome addition to the resources available to emergency managers in Southern California," said Henry Renteria, Director of the Governor's Office of Emergency Services, which coordinates the state's preparedness, response and recovery efforts. "The resources available as a result of the program will greatly help Southern California emergency planners and managers in their efforts to protect lives, property and the environment."

The USGS Multi-Hazards Demonstration Project official starts today with a Kick-Off cememony at the USGS Office at Caltech in Pasadena.  

WHO: Dr Lucy Jones, Congressman Adam Schiff, and USGS earthquake expert Susan Hough, landslide expert Sue Cannon, and wildfire expert Jon Keeley.

WHEN: Monday, May 7, 11:00 a.m.

WHERE: USGS Pasadena Office, 525 S. Wilson, Pasadena

WHAT: USGS will look at the vulnerability of the Southern San Andrea Fault to a major earthquake, the consequences of landslides on slopes impacted by wildfire, contaminants in groundwater, the availability and abundance of clean drinking water, and the plant

USGS provides science for a changing world. For more information, visit www.usgs.gov.

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