Should Memphis build for California's earthquakes?



State and local authorities in parts of the central U.S. that are at risk from earthquakes in the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ) are considering adopting a new building code that would increase the earthquake resistance of new buildings to levels similar to those in southern California.

Here, we argue against this proposal on the dual grounds that the earthquake hazard has been overestimated, and that the costs of the proposed change are likely to far exceed the potential benefits. Instead, we recommend weighing the costs and benefits of alternative strategies that could yield reasonable seismic safety at significantly lower cost.