Commentary: Haiti earthquake shows need to be prepared

Tens of thousands of people are feared dead in Haiti's monster earthquake of Tuesday, and the televised images of people suffering in Port-au-Prince are heart-wrenching in the extreme.

Over the next several hours and days, it will take a major humanitarian response to save survivors and help deliver food and water. That's why we've included contact information for groups performing relief work in Haiti.

Yet as Californians absorb these images of rubble-strewn neighborhoods and displaced people, they should not view this disaster as a distant catastrophe. Various parts of California remain at extreme risk of killer quakes.

Although buildings in California are far safer than those in Haiti – where building codes are limited or nonexistent – there still is a potential for major damage here. The levee systems in the Delta could liquefy in a major quake. Bridges could crumble and old buildings could collapse.

Cities such as San Francisco have made great strides in reinforcing brick buildings in recent decades. Yet many of these masonry structures have not been adequately reinforced, especially in smaller cities and towns.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Sacramento Bee.