Obama orders more earthquake resilience for gov’t buildings


WASHINGTON (AP) – President Barack Obama has ordered all new or renovated federal buildings to be equipped with the latest protections against earthquakes.

Obama signed an executive order on Tuesday creating a Federal Earthquake Risk Management Standard. The White House says the standard will improve federal buildings’ resilience to earthquakes, making them safer and lowering the costs for recovering from a quake.

Obama’s order said that agencies constructing or updating federal buildings must ensure they’re built with earthquake-resistant designs that meet the latest building codes. The White House said that following those codes is one of the best ways to save the lives of people living in a building.

The White House is also seeking to make more progress in deploying an early earthquake warning system along the West Coast. Federal agencies are exploring ways to speed up the permitting process for new seismic monitoring stations.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said during a White House conference on earthquake resilience that the goal is to give people a short head start before an earthquake hits. Such detections systems would allow trains to stop or slow down and elevator doors to open a few seconds before the full force of the earthquake hits.

Once the system is fully operational, early warnings would be issued by the United States Geological Survey. The alerts would also go out to individual smartphones and allow people to move away from hazardous locations and “drop, cover, and hold on” before strong shaking occurs.

“When it’s fully functional, it will put preparedness within everybody’s reach,” Jewell said. “Alerts will be fast, they’ll be reliable about ongoing natural hazards, not just earthquakes but tsunamis as well.”

Jewell said several countries including Japan, China, Turkey and Mexico have more advanced earthquake warning systems than what is available in the United States.

“We are not first to this party. I wish we were,” Jewell said.

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