Are earthquakes in Dallas more foreseeable?
Are more earthquakes now foreseeable enough to require emergency managers to reassess their risk matrix?
Researchers from Southern Methodist University have determined that we should expect for more earthquakes to occur in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. So with this new science would cities be negligent by not at least determining what might happen in their cities if an earthquake struck? The main thing courts will look at when trying to answer this question (beyond whether or not a city breached their duty to protect and prepare their citizens) is how foreseeable the earthquakes are. If we start seeing more earthquakes in both frequency and intensity, and the science supports it, it very well may rise to a level of negligence if the issues were ignored or not addressed.
I think the more important angle that needs to be addressed though is not government entities, but private ones. This is because more and more often the NFPA 1600 is being looked to determine what the private sector should do to prepare for a disaster. Though the NFPA is a voluntary standard, it is not uncommon for it to be looked at to determine what should be done in a disaster. Currently, there is a case working through the state court system in Missouri that alleges that Wal-Mart was negligent in not identifying safe-rooms for customers to go to or procedures to follow in the event of a tornado. Though the case is still in progress, the Federal District court for the Western District of Missouri found that the plaintiffs had a valid cause of action that could proceed and did not grant a motion to dismiss the case. Granted, that case involves a tornado and we are worrying about earthquakes at the moment, but they can likely run into the same idea.
For example, if a tenant in a commercial strip mall has many rows of bookcases that are ok when standing up and no one really leaning on them, but when a small shudder takes place (say a 3.0) then a few of the bookshelves fall down or off the wall. If we start seeing larger intensity earthquakes and the bookshelves fall and injure someone, then the customer may have a cause of action against both the property owner and the commercial tenant for negligence.
Granted, we aren’t going into the weeds on the details of things at the moment, but in the event that we see the USGS or municipalities raise the risk level for an earthquake hazard, it might be extremely wise for the private sector to consider implementing steps to reduce the impact an earthquake might have.
Read the Dallas Morning News Article Here: http://thescoopblog.dallasnews.com/2015/03/smu-dallas-could-see-larger-earthquakes.html/