Fault Lines
If/when the Big One hits, hospitals won’t be ready

About this project

California hospitals have repeatedly bought themselves extra time to make their structures capable of withstanding a major earthquake. But even when this shoring up work is completed, it will be years and even decades before many hospitals will really be able to operate after an earthquake. That’s because California law allows them, in many cases, up to 2030 to make nonstructural upgrades. And recent quakes have shown that it’s these internal issues that mean hospitals are dead in the water after the shaking stops.

Stories

Close to the fault: how some area hospitals rate

California regulators grade the earthquake vulnerability of hospitals with a five-point rating system.

Hospital model to mimic catastrophic earthquakes

A five-story building now under construction at UC San Diego will soon be equipped with hospital beds, computers, a surgical center and even an intensive care unit. Then the shaking begins. The entire building will rock at speeds as fast as six...
Hospitals in shaking zones

Many Southern California hospitals not prepared for massive quake

Within a few dozen miles of California’s most dangerous earthquake fault, scores of hospitals have failed to install safeguards to assure they can keep their doors open after a major earthquake. Recent earthquakes -- in Chile, Peru, Japan -- have...

Quake Safety by the Numbers

2030: Date when hospitals must qualify for an “A” grade, meaning they’re equipped non-structurally to operate for at least 72 hours after a major earthquake.

Treating Inland Empire's injured will be huge task following devastating earthquake

A catastrophic earthquake in Southern California would almost certainly collapse bridges, destroy roads and render hundreds of hospital beds useless, while leaving tens of thousands in need of medical care.

What the experts are saying

“In a hospital, you have patients who need life support. Their support is being supplied by non-structural equipment. A gas line. An electric line.” -- Tara C. Hutchinson, UCSD professor of structural engineering

Hospital readiness on shaky ground

Recent earthquakes - in Chile, Peru and Japan - have shown that even if a hospital's walls survive the shaking, it may suffer internal damage to pipes and equipment, shutting off water and power and leaving hundreds of injured residents without a...

Hospitals prepare for the Big One with emergency plans, field tents

A devastating earthquake in Southern California would almost certainly collapse bridges, destroy roads and render hundreds of hospital beds useless, while leaving tens of thousands in need of medical care.

How hospitals rate in quake readiness

California regulators grade the earthquake vulnerability of hospitals with a five-point rating system. The top rating for nonstructural readiness is a "5," meaning that a facility can operate on its own for at least 72 hours, with fuel and water on...
Hospitals in shaking zones

Dozens of hospitals remain at risk at quake hot spot

When the 1994 Northridge earthquake damaged 11 hospitals, California legislators issued an ultimatum to hospital owners statewide:  Fix your highest-risk buildings by New Year’s Day 2008 or the state will shut them down.
Seismic construction

Photo Gallery: Seismic construction at Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital

Please click here to see the photo gallery assembled by the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

Dig Deeper

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

Five of St. Bernardine buildings have lowest rating

Like many Catholic hospitals, 80-year-old St. Bernardine Medical Center is confronting the realities of an older urban facility and a tradition of treating the uninsured. Its 463-bed campus in San Bernardino is a patchwork of old Spanish-style...

Key buildings still have lowest rankings at Pomona Valley

Not long ago, more than half the buildings at Pomona Valley Regional Medical Center were considered at high risk of crumbling in a major earthquake.

Kindred Healthcare on slow path to retrofits

For at least seven years, Kindred Healthcare has been talking with state regulators about how to fix a building at Kindred Hospital Ontario that poses one of the highest collapse risks in the state.

Loma Linda to construct new towers by 2020

If a major earthquake rocks San Bernardino County, it could wreak serious damage to two of the cream-walled buildings at the core of Loma Linda University Medical Center’s main campus.

No closer to funding mandate

Despite the near certainty of a major earthquake at some point in California's future - and the risk of collapsing hospital buildings -- lawmakers have not made a broad-based attempt to secure public financing to help hospitals meet stringent...

Redlands hospital to spend $11 million in seismic upgrades

A corridor at Redlands Community Hospital has spurred debate between its administrators and the state regulators that oversee hospital earthquake readiness.

Citrus Valley looks to retrofits to remedy high collapse risk

The main building at the Queen of the Valley campus of Citrus Valley Medical Center has a 30.36 percent chance of collapsing in a major earthquake, state regulators have found. That is the second worst rating among hospital buildings statewide that...

Hospitals stand on shaky future

When the 1994 Northridge earthquake damaged 11 nearby hospitals, California legislators issued an ultimatum to hospital owners statewide: Fix your highest-risk buildings by New Year's Day 2008 or the state will shut them down. The law might have...

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

Though Huntington Memorial Hospital opened a new patient care tower in 2008, the 626-bed, not-for-profit hospital still has at least half a dozen buildings at risk of collapse in the event of a major earthquake. A state report from 2010 says seven...

PIH's coming tower to replace at-risk facilities

A new 6-story tower in the works at Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital will replace some of the Whittier hospital's buildings most at risk of collapse in the event of an earthquake. The tower - slated for opening late next year - will house the...

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

More than a dozen buildings at some of the region's small and medium-sized hospitals pose a "significant" risk of collapsing and becoming a danger to the public in the event of an earthquake, according to the state. These buildings have received a...

Authors

Deborah Schoch

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.

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