Friday, July 19, 2024

Letter Writer on Why ‘Seismic Compliance Is Not An Abstract Term’ for the Mendocino Coast Hosptial


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Remember opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of MendoFever nor have we checked the letters for accuracy.

The Olive View Hospital destroyed in 1971 by the San Fernando, California Earthquake [Picture from the United States Geological Society]

“The hospital is not seismically compliant”, “we need a seismic compliance plan”, and “what it this the cost of seismic compliance?” This term is bandied about so often that Seismic Compliance has become something of an abstract term, just regulatory requirements that must be met. Let’s revisit why these requirements exist in the first place. 

During the Northridge earthquake of 1994, eight of 91 acute care hospitals (9 percent) in LA county were evacuated. Two suffered structural damage and six cited nonstructural damage such as water damage, loss of electrical power, and severe damage to HVAC and other equipment as the reasons for evacuation. 

Fortunately, there were other hospitals in the area to accept these patients and those hurt in the quake, an option that we on the Coast wouldn’t have. In the aftermath, several hospitals were found to have structural damage and were demolished. 

This led to legislation (Senate Bill 1953) that requires hospitals to be evaluated in terms of a Structural Performance Category (SPC) and Non-structural Performance Category (NPC). Our hospital is, for example, SPC2 and NPC-2 but must be upgraded to the highest level (5). This means strengthening foundations, walls and other structural items and installing pipe and equipment restraints. 

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So, why are we doing this? Just to meet some engineering criteria? No, we are doing this to avoid the potentially significant human costs. The risks involved if there is even a moderate earthquake are: significant or fatal injuries to patients and medical staff; evacuation of the hospital at a time when people need it most; and perhaps permanent closure and demolition of our coastal hospital.

Time is short and every day represents a risk to the health of our community. We should be looking for ways to speed up efforts to have a seismically sound hospital, especially if the financially responsible thing to do means building a new hospital. We are in what is called Extra Time in soccer. Only the referee knows how much time is left for when the game will be abruptly ended. 

My opinion.

John Redding


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  1. When the Big one hits and it will, the only thing anyone is going to care about is where can we send those who are injured. If the hospital is instead of “That Place” flat or damaged beyond safety we as a community will be in big trouble. Do not expect a bunch of Helicopters to come to the rescue as they will be busy elsewhere. The first hours the military will not be here yet, so no field hospital will be here. Many of our roads and Bridges will be gone (such as the one in Albion which is the oldest and least earthquake proof) so movement will be very limited. We will all need the hospital in Fort Bragg and every other hospital we have near us. Making sure that the last building to be compromised in a quake is the Hospital is the most logical place to spent money on right up there with First Responders and their equipment and training. After those issues the bridges in the area are critical, getting to the hospital is important to make the hospital useful to the whole community.

  2. Quonset Huts could be built quickly on solid soils. Stocked for emergency medical disasters. Upgrade local hospitals but don’t expect any standard building to survive a big earthquake without needing evacuation. Where to build is the single most important factor. An ugly building fire proof and earthquake proof as a backup. Just like the fallout shelters we built during the Cold War. Japan knows how to do it.

  3. A large quake could take out Lake Mendocino Dam so any disaster proof building should be above that flood path. Plan for the worst, pray for the best

  4. Have you seen Hatie? Poor infrastructure creates huge loss of lives. All of Mendocino County fails to recognize this. Ft Bragg ER is the worst I’ve ever been in, Ukiah is better. I’ve heard good reports about Willits, but none of these structures can withstand a1906 event without needing evacuation. Few American structures can withstand a New Madrid quake, the largest in America’s history. We are facing catastrophe yet the Quonset hut idea on stable soil remains as the best and least expensive idea. Outside of town and away from most risks. Keep the hospital and reinforce it. Adventist Health is only in it for profit.

    • new madrid was big!… but in 1992 the cape mendo was like a 7.2 that lasted 9 seconds. funny because the grey whale inn, aka the old hospital built in like 1915 is still standing as a multi story structure. so while not near code, the old mcdh joint should be fine unless we get hit so hard fort bragg turns to dust… meanwhile that parcel tax for the old ruling entity still rips off parcel owners while not a red cent was ever for any retrofit etc.

  5. Blunders in history. Colfax California discovered a fault under the elementary school so they relocated the school to Ben Taylor Rd above Colfax High School. Ben Taylor Rd was a through road in 1950’s but the bridge is gone. It is now a one way road. Every day it becomes a bottle neck traffic jam from cars and busses bringing kids to and from school. A fire from Bear River will kill too many just like it did in Paridise Ca. Look at the risks and plan wisely.
    A well designed Quonset hut can withstand a category 4 tornado, they are cheap and they are quick to build. Ft Bragg, Willits, and Ukiah should all have these as back up emergency shelters and medical centers.

    • Due to increasing drought we will have a Paradise like problem due to the small amount of roads to escape on we also would have bottleneck issues. Add to that the number of Bridges that are not earthquake proof and it is clear that when the big one hits we are on our own so an emergency shelter will be critical.

      • so.. albion and salmon creek bridges?? the rest were all retrofitted with new rebar colums and cables in the 90’s or like noyo and ten mile, replaced.

  6. thankfully mandate or not, that old piece of junk is single story with a lot of foundation under and around it. i doubt it would just implode. an earthquake hard enough to destroy it would probably level a lot of fort bragg structures. then again, some old buildings have some amazing elasticity… but how bout that scam parcel tax right??


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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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