top of page

Earthquake Preparedness Needs a Ramp Up

Last week, it was jolting to read that a widespread earthquake had hit the East Coast. As a long-time West Coast dweller, I associate earthquakes with life here in the West. You never enjoy the phenomenon but get used to it with a weird level of acceptance. I agree with the LA Magazine headline 'That's Our Thing,' as a resident of Washington State who also lived in California and has felt more than my share of shakers over the years.


But last Friday, April 5 was an anomaly. From Boston, MA to Lancaster, PA, to Wall Street in NYC, people felt the ground moving beneath their feet or in the building they were on the job in swaying. 


The great news is that there were no injuries or significant building damage from the 4.8 magnitude shaker-- centered in Whitehouse Station located in Readington Township, part of Hunterdon County. Nevertheless, some structures were damaged, particularly older buildings. 


Last Friday, April 5th's unusual earthquake marred a piece of US history dating back to President George Washington. Taylor's Mill, which is 264 years old, suffered damage to its main body. The mill is under the auspices of the group 'Friends of Colonel John Taylor’s Grist Mill, Inc.'


John Taylor was a carpenter and miller who built the Grist Mill in 1760. Taylor's Mill fed grain to Washington's troops during the Revolutionary War and is a treasured part of American history. 


In a press release, the Friends of the Mill wrote about its stone masonry and wood collapsing. It will take money, time and patience to restore the Grist Mill to its prior condition. 

 

Readington Mayor Adam Mueller told NJ.com that he will make it a priority of the City to help restore the mill. Even before last Friday's earthquake, the Mill, listed on the National Historic Registrar and Preservation New Jersey's Most Endangered 2023 list, was undergoing renovation. The fate of Taylor's Mill is one example of how not applying earthquake preparedness impacts our culture and history.


Retrofitting buildings for earthquakes is an expensive proposition. It entails surveying a structure first to determine what it needs, including strengthening a foundation, securing windows and grounding utility lines to mitigate as much damage as possible in the event of an earthquake.


Recently, the World Economic Forum reported that climate change will likely trigger more earthquakes and volcano eruptions everywhere. For those who dispute climate change is real, we need only to look at events such as this recent earthquake on the East Coast, along with massive wildfires in the West and flooding the likes of which we have never seen in the past few years. And the incidents are not just restricted to the US. The world has seen natural disasters like never before. Therefore, the Forum recommended more dedication to strengthening infrastructures.


Taiwan, which is highly prone to earthquakes, just had a major tremor on the eastern part of the Pacific Island on Wednesday that tragically took the lives of at least 13 residents. Taipei Times reported that 1,145 people were injured. With aftershocks triggering mudslides and tsunamis, the situation remains precarious.


On Monday, April 8, the capital city of Taipei experienced aftershocks and buildings swayed. Fortunately, there were no more injuries, in part, because many structures in more populated business areas are earthquake retrofitted. But with the best planning and intentions, Mother Nature is unpredictable, and even seismologists say that predicting earthquakes is not an exact science


You may recall that over 2,000 people were killed in a devastating earthquake that shook rural parts of Afghanistan on Saturday, October 7, 2023. The country is one of the poorest in Asia and has seen its share of war. Many of the areas hit were poverty-stricken villages with mud-based structures that could not withstand the power of a 7.2 shaker. The earthquake-prone country is still trying to recover from the quake's massive destruction and has been hit by numerous tremblors since then. 


It is unrealistic to think that every structure anywhere can be retrofitted. That would be the ideal situation. Some areas hit by earthquakes are in isolated areas. Many affected countries impacted by natural disasters do not have the resources to protect in every case. 


However, earthquake and warning systems must be enhanced where resources are available. Retrofitting historic buildings should be prioritized. We need to make every effort to preserve the history of a country that I believe is going through a crisis of spirit and mind.


Acknowledgment: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.

2 Comments


Completely agree - the earthquake on the East Coast should be used as a lesson, especially since it was so unprecedented. Earthquakes can really happen anywhere and it is in our best interest to develop safety systems/retrofit when possible so that buildings such as Taylor's Mill do not suffer as much damage.

Like

It is very important to save our country's history, I live on the east coast and I never thought about how we might need earthquake protections.

Like
bottom of page