SEISMIC RETROFITS FOR ‘SOFT-STORY’ BUILDINGS

A Los Angeles City Council committee that was briefed last week on seismic upgrades required by law in roughly 15,000 buildings was told that 14 percent of soft-story wooden structures are now compliant but none of the affected concrete buildings have been retrofitted.

The Soft story Seismic Retrofit Program aims to notify owners through a courtesy notice that their property may be in need of seismic retrofitting, and encourages the owner to take the necessary steps in preventing tenant displacement or having tenants live in uninhabitable conditions. The notice gives the owner the opportunity to prepare financially and provides time to locate a contractor to do the required work once a Notice to Comply (Order) is received.

Everyone is encouraged by the rate at which building owners are already starting to make their structures and tenants safer from earthquakes.

The ordinance targets buildings constructed prior to the enactment of seismic building standards, which include pre-1978 soft-story wooden buildings and concrete buildings with permits dating back to before Jan. 13, 1977.

Understanding seismic safety is important for building owners so that they can avoid injuries and litigation in the event of an earthquake. Newer buildings are designed for Life Safety, not building sustainability. So all buildings could possibly use a retrofit, old buildings built prior to the mid-eighties typically do not have as much resistance.

Here are important points to remember about seismic safety.

  • Have an earthquake readiness plan.
  • Consult a professional to learn how to make your home sturdier, such as bolting bookcases to wall studs, installing strong latches on cupboards, and strapping the water heater to wall studs.
  • Locate a place in each room of the house that you can go to in case of an earthquake. It should be a spot where nothing is likely to fall on you, like a doorframe.
  • Keep a supply of canned food, an up-to-date first aid kit, 3 gallons (11.4 liters) of water per person, dust masks and goggles, and a working battery-operated radio and flashlights in an accessible place.
  • Know how to turn off your gas and water mains.

If Shaking Begins

  • Drop down; take cover under a desk or table and hold on.
  • Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you’re sure it’s safe to exit.
  • Stay away from bookcases or furniture that can fall on you.
  • Stay away from windows. In a high-rise building, expect the fire alarms and sprinklers to go off during a quake.
  • If you are in bed, hold on and stay there, protecting your head with a pillow.

Rise of Better Engineering

While industrialization has gone on for over a century, it wasn’t until the mid-eighties that the construction industry began to adopt principals that provide resistance to seismic activity. Better building strategies allow for stronger connections between structural elements. Roofing and walls are now connected better with continuity ties. Most modern buildings are designed to withstand a high magnitude earthquake.

Due to the available knowledge of seismic safety, it’s important for building owners to realize they have a responsibility to workers and visitors to ensure the building is built to last through disasters. Deciding on a seismic retrofit will reduce the odds of injuries and litigation. You will have peace of mind knowing you’ve made the building as safe as possible.

To get started today or for more information, contact us today to schedule a FREE on-site inspection by our team of soft-story experts or call us now at (818)287-8002.