Seismic Safety Experts Address Status of Hospital Retrofitting
After damage to the Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina, state seismologists and other officials are reassessing the vulnerability of California hospitals and infrastructure to a major earthquake, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency in August 2001 identified a major earthquake on the San Andreas fault as one of three catastrophic events most likely to occur in the U.S., according to seismologist Lucy Jones, scientist in charge for the U.S. Geological Survey Southern California Earthquake Hazards Program. The other two events identified by FEMA were a terrorist attack in New York City and a large hurricane in New Orleans, Jones said.
According to the Times, hospitals' seismic safety is one the biggest concerns of seismology officials (Chong/Becerra, Los Angeles Times, 9/8).
Under current state seismic safety requirements, hospitals must guarantee by 2008 -- or by 2013 if they expect to continue to use their buildings for an additional 30 years -- that their buildings will not collapse in a major earthquake. By 2030, hospitals must guarantee that their buildings will not collapse in a major earthquake and will continue to function immediately afterward (California Healthline, 6/17).
The state has granted about 200 requests for extensions of the 2013 deadline, the Times reports.
Jan Emerson, a spokesperson for the California Hospital Association, said about 78% of hospitals have at least one building that is considered at risk of damage. More than 900 hospitals that have been identified as risks have not been reinforced or replaced (Los Angeles Times, 9/8).
Overall, about 40% of hospital facilities in the state must be upgraded, and the work is estimated to cost hospitals at least $41 billion. Hospitals do not receive state funding to meet the requirements (California Healthline, 6/17).