The recent earthquakes in Chile and Haiti serve as a reminder that parts of the United States are highly vulnerable to the devastating effects of this unpredictable natural disaster, says the Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS).

IBHS president and CEO Julie Rochman warned that a high-severity earthquake, similar to the ones that recently ravaged Chile and Haiti, is likely to strike in the United States due to the major fault lines located in numerous areas in the United States.

“Many people don’t realize there is a huge fault line in the central U.S. known as the New Madrid fault, as well as a significant fault line in South Carolina,” Rochman said in a statement. “Interestingly, about 200 years separated Haiti from its last major quake and the most recent one, and it has been nearly 200 years since the devastating 1811-1812 earthquakes struck along the New Madrid Fault, which begins in Missouri and travels through five states. And, of course, California and the Pacific Northwest are sitting on top of numerous fault lines.”

Despite the fact that Chile’s quake was an 8.8 magnitude, and Haiti’s was 7.0, the wreckage in Chile appears far less widespread than that from the recent quake in Haiti. Rochman said this underscores the importance of building codes, noting there remain many earthquake-prone areas in the United States that also lack effective building codes, or where building code enforcement is inconsistent.

“While there are many dissimilarities between the two catastrophes that account for the variation in the levels of destruction, one of the primary reasons Chile fared better than Haiti is because the country has imposed tough building codes in recent decades, rendering modern structures more likely to survive any given quake. Construction in Haiti, sadly, was not governed by modern building codes,” Rochman stated.

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