In San Francisco, earthquakes are a matter of when, not if. Since 1836, there have been five seismic events in the Bay Area with a magnitude of 6.75 or higher. There is a prevailing concern about the “Big One,” a possible massive earthquake along the San Andreas fault line, which runs near San Francisco.
Are USF’s buildings stable enough to handle it?
There are more than 20 buildings on USF’s main campus, the oldest of which opened almost 100 years ago. Mike London, assistant vice president of the facilities department, said all USF buildings were designed to “limit the amount of damage to the building as something that is reparable and to protect life safety… all of our buildings comply with that standard.”
Toler Residence Hall, Fromm Residence Hall, Kalmanovitz Hall, War Memorial Gymnasium and Lone Mountain North (which includes the Lone Mountain dorms, among other offices) have been structurally modified in order to remain compliant with current building codes.
One of the oldest buildings on campus, Lone Mountain Main, was built in the 1930s and has withstood a sizeable earthquake in the past. “The 1989 Loma Prieta event did significant damage to other areas of the City that were on fill or Bay mud. Here at USF, there was no significant reported damage, indicating the USF campus performed admirably in the face of a 6.9 Richter event,” London said.
While in many cases being built on a hill would carry the risk of structural collapse during an earthquake, London said Lone Mountain was formed over a large rock outcropping which has prevented it from being a seismic hazard zone. The area around the hill may be “more susceptible to seismic movement or instability,” however. But “Lone Mountain has performed very well over the years with no reported quake damage,” London added.
London also commented on the new dorms, which are currently under construction. He said, “Because the residence portion of the project will be wood-framed, it is going to be a very flexible type of structure and thus should perform very well with any seismic movement.”
In 2008, the USGS published a Shakeout Scenario which detailed how exactly a major earthquake would affect San Francisco. It said the quake would cause damage in buildings and roads and have the potential to start massive fires and shatter water pipes throughout the city. Public Safety has an online list of items students should have on-hand to prepare for a quake, including stored water and a water filter (or water purification tablets).
The Public Safety department also advises students on what to do during an earthquake. Students should protect themselves by keeping away from windows, taking cover under a sturdy desk or table and staying there until movement has completely stopped. Afterwards, safety information would be transmitted through the USF alerts and speaker systems, as well as being accessible through listening to local radio stations.