Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

Hospital safety spurs San Diego earthquake tests

Southern California earthquake damage, 1971.
Southern California earthquake damage, 1971.
LA Public Library/Herald-Examiner Collection

Scientists at UC San Diego have constructed a fully outfitted five-story building (complete with a hospital on the top floor) for the purpose of subjecting it to simulated shocks on par with the 1994 Northridge earthquake this week. The magnitude of the simulations will range from 6.7 to 8.8, “near worst case scenarios” for what could potentially happen if a quake hit the San Andreas Fault.

According to NBC Los Angeles, the test building is outfitted with 80 cameras and 500 monitors, allowing the researchers will be able to watch and measure first hand exactly what happens when such tremors hit a structure, particularly hospitals.

"The research obtained in this shake test will help us retrofit and design hospitals so that they can continue to function after a major earthquake,” said Richard McCarthy, a California Seismic Safety Commission chairman to 10News.

Fire safety is of particular interest to the researchers. “The building has been wired with video,” said Captain Tim Strack of the Riverside Fire Department to NBC Los Angeles. “We’re going to do a series of fire tests on the damaged building to see how the contents respond when a fire is started post-event.”

The tests, occurring throughout the week, will cost approximately $5 million, and is funded by government agencies.