This Mercury News piece shows that there are indeed occasions when governmental regulations are a good thing:

“Earthquakes happen so infrequently that people forget about (the damage) they can do,” said Rakesh Goel, a Cal Poly professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Buildings constructed before 1971 — and there are many all around San Luis Obispo County — were not required to meet the strict seismic codes in force today. In particular, most older buildings lack steel reinforcements to help them withstand the violent shaking of earthquakes.

Brick buildings that are reinforced will still shake, but they hold up better. The 1940s fire station-turned-office building at Garden and Pismo streets in San Luis Obispo, for example, fared well Monday despite its brick materials.

Yesterday’s earthquake was quite powerful and yet only three people were killed. Contrast that with lesser quakes in the developing world–or, indeed, even Japan–when scores if not hundreds of people die because of shoddy construction. Indeed, those killed yesterday were in a structure dating to 1892.

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Steven says:

    Yup–or even the non-reinforced freeways in SF that collapsed back in the 89 (I think it was 89) quake. The ones built under new codes didn’t fall, but the older ones did–and it was ugly, to say the least.