March 10th is a very memorable date for many Southern Californians who were around for the 1933 Long Beach Earthquake. Measuring in at a 6.4 magnitude, the quake occurred at 5:54 pm and resulted in the death of one hundred twenty civilians. The quake was followed by thirty-four aftershocks. It caused over 40 million dollars of damage (which is equivalent to $737,196,946.56 today), and most of the damage was to schools (75th Anniversary of the 1933 Long Beach Earthquake). If this earthquake had taken place during school hours, thousands of children (and their teachers) would have been killed (Recalling the Long Beach Earthquake of 1933).
"This earthquake was really the first event that brought to light many hazards and potential hazards earthquakes pose to modern Southern California" (On This Date: The 1933 Long Beach Earthquake).
The Field Act
Of the one hundred and twenty schools in and around the Long Beach area that were damaged, seventy were completely destroyed. The damage that resulted from the earthquake led to the Field Act, which was passed just one month after the initial quake. The Field Act mandated that all school buildings in the United States (specifically California) meet specific standards of safety. After the act's passing in 1933, all newly constructed schools have been built exactly to specific regulations and standards. All schools built before 1933 were retrofitted to comply to the new standards.
While being interviewed about the earthquake, Bonnie Stiles Smith, who was a child at the time, recalled: "It was a two-story brick building and it was destroyed," she said. "My classroom was gone and the dome of the building was laying on Hill Street. We had to cook outside for days afterward. On the night of the quake we had chocolate pudding for dinner. My sister wouldn't eat it again for years." (80 Years Later).
Legacy of the Quake:
The 1933 Long Beach Earthquake was one of the first instances that raised awareness about the issue of unsafe building conditions in Southern California . With the passing of the Field Act, people began to understand the importance of keeping buildings up to standard. Today, it is not just schools that are safe. Many new buildings in Southern California are built with specific rules and older buildings have been retrofitted to meet this higher modern standard. We now know the consequences of inadequately constructed buildings and are sufficiently prepared for whatever comes next.
Legacy of the Quake (continued)
"As of 2010, the Field Act currently applies to the design, construction and renovation of all K–12 school buildings and community college buildings in California. Although there have been attempts to make private schools comply with the provision of the Field Act, they are currently exempt... Since 1940, no building constructed under the Field Act has either partially or completely collapsed, and no students have been killed or injured in a Field Act compliant building" (Field Act).