September 11 2012

Disaster Awareness: How to Plan Around Earthquake Faults – Lessons From Mammoth Lakes, CA

Earthquake FaultThe Town of Mammoth Lakes, CA, in the eastern sierra region of California, is surrounded by earthquake faults. In addition, Mammoth Mountain is an actual active volcano on the rim of the Long Valley Caldera. This caldera is one of the most seismically active regions of California. In 1980, Mammoth Lakes experienced 81 tremors of magnitudes 4.0 to 6.3 in just three days. While there were no fatalities, nine people sustained injuries and damages were reported to cost over $1.5 million. How can urban planners, environmental non-profits, and engineers prepare and plan for disaster mitigation in order to avoid fatalities, injuries, and costly damages in the future?

In the Town of Mammoth Lakes General Plan, adopted in 2007, policies have been provided to help avoid the dangers associated with seismic activity.
These include:

  • Restricting development in areas with steep slopes;
  • Requiring geotechnical evaluations and implementing mitigation measures prior to developing in areas of potential geologic or seismic hazards;
  • Minimizing soil erosion and slope instability by amending Municipal Codes to include advances in construction techniques;
  • Informing residents and businesses regarding earthquake preparedness and response by coordinating with other agencies to promote public education efforts.

Earthquake Fault Map

In addition to these development policies, the Town of Mammoth Lakes, CA strictly adheres to the California Building Code, which requires specific tests for any masonry that is used in the construction and architecture design of new buildings. Mammoth Lakes, CA has also adopted an Emergency Operations Plan which outlines the Town’s response to many different contemporary emergency situations including wild fires, avalanches, transportation accidents, and hazardous material incidents, among others. This plan specifically follows the Response Plan for Volcano Hazards in the Long Valley Caldera and Mono Craters Region, California developed by the United States Geological Survey (USGA).

The USGA has installed a network of sensors in the area to detect subtle activity. The Town of Mammoth Lakes Police Department is responsible for building a working relationship with the USGS and monitoring the volcanic and seismic activity of the Caldera in order to organize a response in the case of an emergency. An earthquake of magnitude 5 will automatically trigger volcanic warning Yellow (Eruption watch).

What other ways can architects and urban planners plan ahead and prepare communities for emergencies?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Patricia Kent

Patricia Kent wrote for The GRID between October 2011 and October 2012. During this time she was a graduate student in Community & Regional Planning with a concentration in Latin American Studies at the University of New Mexico. She was also a recent transplant to Mammoth Lakes, CA. Her interests ranged from political theory and public policy to sustainable tourism. A strong advocate for participatory planning practices, her studies focused on community capacity building and economic development. She believed in fostering entrepreneurship in communities. Currently, Patricia is working on economic sustainability policies that benefit both the preservation of the Eastern Sierras as well as the ever-increasing tourist population.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 11th, 2012 at 4:54 pm and is filed under Architecture, Energy, Environment, Environmental Design, Environmental Non-Profit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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