IBHS: Strong Building Standards Spared Mexico in Quake

NU Online News Service, March 23, 3:01 p.m. EDT

Improved building standards spared Mexico more damage and deaths from this week’s magnitude 7.4 earthquake—and U.S. builders can take a lesson from this event, one insurance association says.

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) says the augmented building codes “played a significant role in limiting property damage and saving lives.”

The IBHS compared the most recent earthquake to the extensive damage from the 1985 earthquake of magnitude 8.0 that shook Mexico City.

Buildings were poorly built in Mexico in 1985, the IBHS notes, but officials there have since dramatically revamped building codes and enforcement of regulations, resulting in stronger buildings.

“Mexico has taught the world a valuable lesson—that strong, well-enforced building codes can, and do, save lives and reduce property damage,”  Julie Rochman, president and CEO of IBHS, says in a statement. “Now, we call on officials here in the United States to learn from Mexico and take steps to enact strong, statewide building codes that will protect citizens and preserve homes and businesses."

Wanda Edwards, director of code development for the IBHS, tells NU Online News Service that the concern is especially acute in the New Madrid fault line states in the Souththe site of gigantic earthquakes in 1811-1812 that are estimated to have been higher than magnitude 7.0.

Some states do not have a statewide building code, which means building construction can take place without standards or code enforcement.

Edwards says the Mexico earthquake should signal to government officials the life-saving value of stringent building codes. This gives insurers more ammunition to urge public officials to institute statewide building codes, she adds.

“The danger of seismic activity is that you don’t have the ability to evacuate before the event as you do with hurricanes,” says Edwards. “There’s no warning.”

The 1985 quake destroyed 400 buildings and damaged thousands, taking the lives of 10,000 people.

Last Tuesday’s earthquake that struck 200 miles south-southeast of Mexico City caused 60 homes to collapse and damaged about 800 more homes, the Associated Press reports.

Up until Wednesday, there were reports of injuries but no deaths. The Associated Press says two people died Thursday.

AP reports that Salvador Cruz Castro, mayor of the Cuajinicuilapa municipality in Guerrero state, says one of the victims died from injuries caused by a wall falling on him and the other died of complications from a heart attack suffered during the quake.

A moderate magnitude 5.2 shake rattled central Mexico on Thursday, one of a number of aftershocks that have left people nervous and office workers evacuating office buildings, says AP.

As the earthquake struck Tuesday, one of the American visitors there at the time of the earthquake was Malia Obama, daughter of President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. She was there on a school trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, not far from the earthquake’s epicenter.

Malia and her fellow classmates were not injured, according to AP

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