California earthquake damage tempered by modern, up-to-date building codes

On the morning of July 4, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake rattled through Southern California, with another 7.1 magnitude quake striking the region the following evening.

The damage resulting from these events could have been significant. Thanks to the modern, up-to-date building codes in California – based on the International Codes (I-Codes) – the Searles Valley Earthquake resulted in no loss of life and minimal structural damage. The I-Codes are keeping us safe, and this event reminds us of the importance of adopting and effectively implementing current model building codes as a key defense against natural disasters. Building codes save lives.

According to structural engineers working with the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, the homes and buildings experiencing the most severe damage date back to the 1930s, '40s and '50s. Modern buildings built using model codes experienced damage that was largely limited to nonstructural elements or contents.

While the quakes resulted in minor structural damage, disaster response efforts and preliminary damage assessments remain ongoing. Building safety professionals in affected areas are readying to help their communities recover as quickly as possible. International Code Council staff are in contact with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and will work with our Southern California members to help as needed.

The Code Council will continue to work with seismic experts and building safety professionals to remain on the forefront of seismic research and to help ensure the safety of communities worldwide. Later this month the Code Council and the California Building Officials (CALBO) are hosting a roundtable discussion in Sacramento, California, with subject matter experts from around the U.S. in an effort to determine a roadmap for the development of a nationally applicable approach to earthquake recovery for new construction.

Visit our earthquake safety and recovery webpage for resources that help people prepare for and deal with these dangerous quakes. Please share with your networks.

If you are interested in adding your name to the Code Council's Disaster Response Alliance volunteer system to help communities after a major disaster, please register here.