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As a structural engineer, I am worried that people are too optimistic about the practical efficacy of the types of preparedness that are most commonly mentioned. It would be realistic to presume that, in the event of a subduction-zone earthquake, the death toll in Oregon would be similar to that experienced in the recent Chile earthquake, like that experienced in the Kobe, Japan earthquake, or even a good bit worse. This is because the adoption of appropriate building code provisions has done little to improve the older building stock.
Most of Oregon's buildings are untested by earthquake. Many of the engineered structures were built before serious earthquake provisions were adopted. Engineering practice here may not be as good here as in California (compare Kobe and Tokyo), for a number of reasons. The effectiveness of seismic remediation, as practiced here, has yet to be demonstrated. The cost of effective remediation on a broad scale seems to be more than society is willing to afford. This has been amply studied by the City of Portland.
My advice to emergency planners would be to think in terms of a death toll in the range of several hundreds to a several thousands in the event of a subduction-zone earthquake striking Oregon
Thomas B. Higgins
posted 3 years, 1 month ago
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