Twenty years ago, a fault that scientists didn’t even know existed slipped, triggering a massive 6.7 magnitude earthquake centered beneath the San Fernando Valley, with shockwaves rippling throughout the greater Los Angeles area.
When the strongest shaking ceased, the region had suffered 57 deaths and more than $20 billion in damage. The newly formed Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC), founded in 1991 and headquartered at USC, stepped in to find out exactly what happened and what could be done about it.
Earthquakes cannot be prevented nor predicted. However, by beefing up and modernizing the region’s seismographic network and then crunching the massive reams of resulting data, scientists from SCEC have been able to piece together a clearer, more granular picture of the varying risk that regions throughout Southern California face due to earthquakes.
That picture can be used to help create appropriate building codes and, in the wake of an earthquake, help direct first responders.