When an earthquake hits, people turn to Caltech to answer the basic questions: How big was it? Where was the epicenter? How many aftershocks?
But with the Sierra Madre Earthquake slamming into Pasadena on Friday, another question arises: What if The Big One hits Caltech?
First of all, every building on the scientific institute's campus is reinforced to 1 1/2 times earthquake construction standards, said Bill Irwin, assistant director of the Caltech physical plant. Second, the school has auxiliary generators if the institute should lose power--provided they aren't destroyed.
Caltech has about 250 monitoring stations in Southern California. "We can operate with a fraction of what we normally have and still provide some information," said Kate Hutton, a Caltech seismologist. "Probably our building would not collapse. The only thing that would keep us out would be if there was a toxic leak, and hopefully they would get that cleaned up quickly."