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EERI Responds to Searles Valley Earthquakes using Fulcrum Community

July 10, 2019

Fourth of July in Southern California was different this year. I’m sure most were prepared to enjoy family, friends and traditional fireworks. They most likely had made their last grocery store runs and mapped out their entertainment plan, when out of nowhere the plans were literally shook up. An earthquake measuring 6.4 in magnitude shook at 10:33 a.m., causing a swift change to the Independence Day celebrations in Searles Valley and surrounding areas. In classic Cali fashion, some felt the shaking happening and kept moving afterward thinking it’s normal California stuff since they have become accustomed to experiencing these tremors.

Unfortunately, this time it wasn’t normal. The next day brought another earthquake, this time measuring 7.1 in magnitude and considered a major and dangerous seismographic event given the likelihood of more aftershocks that could follow.

Highway fractured by earthquake
California State Route 178 after the earthquakes. (Photo courtesy of USGS)

Unlike other major disasters, earthquakes are harder to predict, making it very difficult to give warnings and opportunities for citizens to take cover. In most regions affected by these tremors, there’s efforts to make sure that citizens have evacuation plans for their homes or workplace to ensure they know the safest place to be in the event an earthquake of large magnitude occurs. It’s unsettling to think that something like this could change your entire life and there’s little you can do about it. Truthfully, that’s the case for any disaster and why it’s so important to have a plan and the right tools to respond. It is also equally important for us to continue to research and document these occurrences.

Using Fulcrum to assess earthquake damage

The more we know, the better we will understand how to respond and prepare which is what the brilliant scientists and students are doing at the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI).

Home damaged by earthquake
A home near Searles Valley damaged by the earthquakes. (Photo courtesy of EERI)

EERI deployed a group of scientists and students to assess and map damage caused by last week’s shocking events. They were ready and prepared to respond with Fulcrum and smartphones in hand. Since they already had the Fulcrum app they were able to quickly ramp up volunteers to assess damage, record pictures, videos and other pertinent information needed to support the safety of citizens. This information is critical support to first responders and other agencies involved in recovery efforts. It also helps to support identifying heavily impacted areas that could suffer more damage during an aftershock.

So far, their assessments have revealed a staggering number of destroyed homes, buildings and enormous cracks in highways and other rural areas of the region. They have documented notes about the status of many structures in the area and they report this information to authorities responding to the earthquake. They are also able to document whether utilities have been disconnected, which is extremely important during these events because they can cause explosions and fires.

Fire started by earthquake
A house fire started by the earthquakes. (Photo courtesy of EERI)

Shock is in inevitable after any disaster. Families are displaced, lives are changed and sometimes lost, which is why it is so important to be prepared to respond quickly and efficiently. It will take time to repair and rebuild after this catastrophic event but through the hands of EERI volunteers, first responders and the Fulcrum platform they can communicate in real time, assess damage and support a faster recovery.

Recover we will, as we have done through many disasters. We are more resilient and prepared than we have ever been, which means we will bounce back better than we were before.