Are San Fernando Valley Hospitals Ready For a Major Earthquake?

August 13, 2019

Earthquake Proofing Our Hospitals For the Big One

California Hospitals Question 2030 Earthquake Standards

California has required new hospital buildings to meet earthquake standards since 1974, following the 1971 magnitude 6.5 earthquake in the San Fernando Valley that killed 64 people and collapsed buildings at the Olive View Medical Center and a veterans hospital.  Since then, new technology and research has lead to new building standard requirements. The new standards will take effect in 2030, but most Southern California hospitals aren’t going to be able to keep their doors open in the event of the “big one,” according to a new report.

Modern Healthcare reports that "most hospitals in earthquake-prone California have met regulations designed to keep buildings from collapsing in an earthquake. But administrators say the standards for keeping the doors open after quakes are pricey and will force some hospitals to raise healthcare costs, cut services or close."

“A Ridgecrest hospital spent $72 million on a building designed to do two things after an earthquake: stay standing and stay open.  But when a pair of strong earthquakes struck the region last month, the hospital was evacuated. Structurally, the building was OK., but they had to evacuate the building as a precaution.”  Keeping the doors open and the hospital running after a major earthquake will present a challenge, and requires better planning.

The California Hospital Association, an industry group, says that only 23 hospitals have met the 2030 earthquake standards, while 395 hospitals have not. They estimate it will cost as much as $143 billion for hospitals to comply, according to a study paid for by the industry.

"If we follow through with this standard, we will likely close hospitals," said Carmela Coyle, president of the California Hospital Association.

Hospitals are proposing other ideas, including "having taxpayers help finance construction or requiring only a certain number of hospitals in each region to meet the standards. Another idea is to adopt a cap-and-trade-like system where hospitals could buy permits allowing them to have noncompliant beds."

To read more about Hospital Earthquake compliance in California click here:


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