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Is Bakersfield prepared for the big one?

6.4 Magnitude Earthquake Rattles Southern California
Posted at 11:01 AM, Jan 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-07 20:39:00-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — We all know that being fully prepared for a major earthquake isn't a simple task. But when it comes to the question of if Bakersfield is prepared for the big one, the city has a simple answer.

"Yes. We're confident that we can handle that," said Joe Conroy, a spokesman for the City of Bakersfield.

Conroy says he's sure that, in the event a massive earthquake shook Bakersfield to its core, the city's police, fire and other emergency response personnel are ready to handle the situation.

"Obviously there's going to be a bit of chaos, it's gonna be, it's not something that you have every day, so it's going to be out of the ordinary, but we're prepared to handle any kind of response there," he said.

July's pair of quakes epicentered in Northwest San Bernardino County hit the communities of Trona and Ridgecrest the hardest. Bakersfield, with a population of over 300,000, was mostly spared. But what's the likelihood a quake could be centered right underneath the city's feet?

"It's a possibility but it's likely going to be a smaller magnitude earthquake, largely because of where we have faults and the types of faults that are likely to occur underneath Bakersfield," said William Krugh, professor of geology at California State University Bakersfield.

But there are dangers just outside of Bakersfield. In 1952 the Tehachapi earthquake killed 12 people in the county and destroyed many buildings in Bakersfield. County officials say California's building codes are updated every three years as we learn from previous earthquakes, but nothing can guarantee total safety from a very high-magnitude quake.

"Obviously if we get a bigger earthquake, probably what we have say an 8 or 9, you may see some severe damage to the structure," said Ali Annan, Assistant Director of Public Works, Kern County, just after the Ridgecrest quake.

But what about hospitals? One of the most crucial resources during an earthquake? The state rates their seismic safety on a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being the most favorable score. Adventist Health Bakersfield has a score of 4.6, 23ABC spoke with them in July.

"We don't take it for granted, we understand we live in an earthquake zone," said Sam Itani, Operational Executive for Adventist Health.

Other ratings in Kern County include Mercy Southwest with an average of 4.75, Ridgecrest Regional with an average of about 4, Memorial Hospital about 3, and Good Samaritan Hospital in Oildale an average of 2.5.

Even though officials are confident we're ready for another big one, the City of Bakersfield and Kern County are currently working together to update their emergency response plan and learn where we are most vulnerable.

"We want to identify natural disaster threats before they happen, and so we want to make sure that those are on our radar and that we have plans and procedures in place to address those if that arises," Conroy said.

The city and county are asking the public to complete a survey to identify vulnerabilities. It closes on March 31.