by Sanden Totten |
A major earthquake could knock out Internet connectivity in Southern California.
This is one in a weeklong series of stories on KPCC leading up to Friday’s 20th anniversary of the devastating 1994 Northridge Earthquake. The series will explore the quake’s history, its effects and its legacy. You can view more stories on our Northridge Anniversary page. Let us know what you think on our Facebook page, on Twitter (“@” mention @KPCC) and in the comments below.
When the Northridge earthquake struck 20 years ago, L.A. was a very different place.
The Internet was brand new. Cell phones looked like bricks, and if you said “Facebook” most people would think you were talking about an actual book.
These days though, digital technology is everywhere.
It helps us in many ways, but our reliance on connectivity may also end up hurting us after a major quake.
“Everything and anything that we use is dependent on some type of electronic or digital tool,” said Julie Davenport, a disaster preparedness expert who spent decades creating emergency plans for Wells Fargo.
Davenport says it’s possible for a major quake to take out much of L.A.’s communication infrastructure.
In such a scenario many point-of-sale systems that process debit and credit card payments wouldn’t work. Gas pumps may be inoperable, and a quarter of all ATMs in the city could be offline.
Davenport suggests people keep a stash of cash at home and maintain a semi-full gas tank at all times.
U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Lucy Jones adds, many important public and private entities rely heavily on the web.
She says Caltrans uses the Internet to monitor roads and traffic conditions, electric and water companies use it to keep track of operations, and grocery stores need it to order food.
“We assume it is in just about every aspect of economic activity,” she explained.