Caltech engineers say 1-story, wooden homes are the safest in the event of a major earthquake, while brick structures are the ones least likely to withstand the shaking. Ted Chen reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Oct. 18, 2012.
When the so-called Big One hits California, will your home withstand the shaking? If you have a wood house, you might have hit the jackpot.
Scientists are already preparing for a 7.8 magnitude quake along the San Andreas Fault that could cause significant damage in Los Angeles. They say 1-story wood homes are the safest during a big earthquake, but precautions still need to be taken.
"If you have a house sitting on a raised foundation, make sure it is bolted down to the foundation," said Dr. Swami Krisnan, a Caltech structural engineer. "Then, you will make sure there is no total loss in the event of an earthquake."
Although wood is best, concrete comes in a close second if the concrete is confined by steel. That way the structure won’t completely crumble during an earthquake. The most at-risk residences are those built with bricks.
"It’s very easy to actually shake these walls and make them quiver, fall down and collapse," Krisnan said.
L.A.’s geographical makeup makes it vulnerable to prolonged periods of shaking, according to Caltech experts. Most Southland homes sit on deep sedimentary deposits, surrounded by mountains and hills. It creates what experts call a "Jell-o effect," in which waves from a quake reverberate back and forth within a basin like Los Angeles.
"If you’re actually on the solid part of the hill, you will experience less shaking," said Caltech seismologist Dr. Kate Hutton.
Hutton explains that decades of earthquake research have given seismologists a better idea of the average time between quakes of a certain size.
"We can’t give you the date, we don’t really know when a quake will happen as far as a date or year, but we can say one area is more loaded than others," Hutton said.
Among the loaded areas are the Coachella Valley, which includes Palm Springs, and the Mohave area, including the Antelope Valley.