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Fault Lines


Region's small and medium-sized hospitals scramble to make retrofits

This story was originally published in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. More than a dozen buildings at some of the region's small and...

Citrus Valley looks to retrofits to remedy high collapse risk

The main building at Queen of the Valley campus of Citrus Valley Medical Center in West Covina on Friday, Oct. 28, 2011. The building...

Huntington Hospital years away from plans to address at-risk buildings

This story originally appeared in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. Though Huntington Memorial Hospital opened a new patient care tower in...

Dig Deeper

To learn about the quake risk of your local hospital:

State regulators do not provide an online posting of hospital buildings’ “collapsibility” ratings. California Watch journalist Christina Jewett compiled such a list in 2010.

A 2010 state report lists hospitals with high-risk buildings and ranks them by how likely they are to comply with the 2013 or 2015 deadlines for seismic repairs or replacement.

Another report lists hospitals that have asked state regulators to review high-risk buildings through a testing system called HAZUS. If a building is rated SPC-2, with a collapse score of 1.5% or below, it does not need to be remodeled or replaced until 2030. If it is rated SPC-1, or above 1.5%, it probably needs fixes by 2013 or 2015.

Starting in 2010, California hospitals with buildings at high risk of collapse must file public reports annually about their retrofit or rebuilding plans. Reports for each hospital can be found on this state website. Look by county name and hospital name in the section, “Counties with Acute Care Hospitals with SPC-1 buildings.”

State files about a hospital’s seismic safety are largely public because of the state Public Records Act.  Most files are kept in Sacramento. To see and copy specific files, contact the legal office of the state Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development by phone at (916) 326-3610, by fax at (916) 322-2561, by e-mail (, by mail or in person at 400 R St., Suite 320, Sacramento, CA 95811.


For more about California’s seismic safety laws for hospitals:

The laws and their history are listed on a state website.

overview was provided at a March 2010 hearing by the state Senate Health Committee. It included testimony from a variety of interest groups.

The Legislature has repeatedly extended deadlines for hospital seismic safety work, most recently  with SB 90, a bill supported by many hospitals and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last spring. State officials have written draft emergency regulations to enforce the law, which would extend deadlines for most hospitals for up to seven years. The law still is not final, and a date for a state Building Safety Commission hearing has not been set.


For more about earthquake risk in California:

The U.S. Geological Survey provides reports on major faults, including the San Andreas Fault. It is also offers reports on historical earthquakes such as the 1994 Northridge quake, the last major earthquake in the Los Angeles Basin.

A major USGS report, the 2008 ShakeOut Scenario, examined the potential impact of a hypothetical magnitude 7.8 earthquake on the southern San Andreas Fault.

The 2011 ShakeOut earthquake preparedness drill will begin at 10:20 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 20, at locations throughout California.

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Deborah Schoch

Senior writer Deborah Schoch reports on hospitals and health care delivery, nursing homes, environmental health and food. Her most recent articles have examined patient safety andhospital infections. She was a founding writer with the Center’s pilot project. Schoch spent 18 years as a staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, covering public health and the environment. She was a member of the Times newsroom teams that won Pulitzer Prizes for breaking news in 1992 and 1994. Schoch graduated from Cornell University and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 1999-2000, studying science, law and policy. Her work at the Center has won several honors, including first place in the 2010 Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism, from the Association of Health Care Journalists. She sits on the AHCJ board’s Right-to-Know Committee, which works to improve access to public health records.

© 2014 California Healthcare Foundation Center for Health Reporting