Chicago and Earthquakes

Earthquake damage

The stories coming out of Turkey are horrendous and are weighing on the hearts and minds of peopel around the world. The sad reality is that more stringent building codes, enforcement, and improved construction methods could have made a significant impact.

Amongst the failings include President Erdogan who personally oversaw an amnesty program that forgave poor construction practices. All of this has lead to a monumental disaster that has taken a massive toll on human lives. There are reasons for building codes and building code enforcement and it is not just about generating revenue, it is for the safety of our citizens. 

While in Chicago, we are at a very low risk for earthquakes and especially a significant one, it is still possible and the city does have applicable sections of the building code to address quakes.  if you have lived in the Chicago area for a long time, you may remember a 5.1 quake in 1987 that caused noticeable shaking in many high rises in the city. An even bigger event occurred on the New Madrid fault east of St. Louis in 1968 where a 5.4 magnitude quake occurred. 

Although those were minor and no damage was reported, they are no where close to the most significant earthquakes to hit the region. In 1811 and 1812, a series of quakes shook the region with an estimated magnitudes between 7.2 and 8.6.  These quakes were so powerful that they temporarily reversed the flow of the Mississippi River and were felt in the White House in Washington DC. Luckily, this region of the United States was sparsely populated.

So while the risk is extremely low for anything like this to occur close to Chicago, there would still be an impact if the big one was to hit on the New Madrid Fault. Thankfully we are at pretty low risk. To address the possibility, Chicago adopted the 2018 International Building Code and sections 1603.1.5, 1613.1,  addresses earthquake design requirements and hopefully we are in better shape to avoid such a tragic event.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to those impacted by the earthquakes.

We like discussing building codes, leave us a comment below or email us if you have questions, we would be happy to help.


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