Sutter Health, Eden Medical Center
Earthquake

Guest blog from Ken Hinck
Eden’s Director of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
and Disaster Preparedness Coordinator

ambulance

We’re all aware of the devastating events happening in Japan.  News updates are available around the clock, and we can’t help but focus on the dramatic images of destruction, heroics, despair and hope. The events in Japan remind us again of the immense power of our planet. And we’re witnesses to the ability of the people of Japan, arguably the most earthquake-prepared people in the world, to cope in the earthquake’s aftermath.

Our focus rapidly shifted as events unfolded. Initially, we focused on the news of one of the world’s largest recorded earthquakes and, soon after, the destruction caused by the tsunami.  As the tsunami raced across the Pacific, we awaited the arrival of the tsunami surge upon our shores, amazed by the strength of a surge generated 5,000 miles away.  And now our focus shifts to Japan’s nuclear disaster and to the presence, no mater how unlikely, of any increased radiation here at home.

Chile, New Zealand, Indonesia, China, and now Japan, I’ve heard it said that the faults of North America are the only “Ring of Fire” faults not to have ruptured in the past decade. Although there is some small comfort in knowing that the type of faults we live on won’t generate an earthquake of Japan’s magnitude, given Bay Area soil, a significant earthquake can cause violent shaking in some areas. Depending on the location of an Alaskan earthquake, a tsunami could affect our coast and could raise concerns about California’s nuclear power plants located on or near active faults and the coastline.

So what do we do?

We take this as a wake up call and prepare! Our focus should shift from current events to our own preparation. It is not a mater of if, but when, a major earthquake will hit the Bay Area.  Ben Franklin said it best, “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.”  If we fail ourselves, we fail our family, and we can not help our community. And as we have seen, a strong community will be needed to respond and be resilient.

Our ability to provide assistance begins with individual preparedness. Studies indicate that responders first need to know that their families are safe so they may fully respond to an event.  At Eden, we offer our staff classes in individual and family preparedness so they are confident in their family’s safety and are better able to focus on serving our community.  I believe we need to increase the number of prepared families in our communities so that we are all able to take care of ourselves in times of disaster. When we are confident in our own family’s safety and well being, we are better able to reach out and assist others.

Make sure you have a “Family Disaster Plan,” that you have disaster supplies at home to provide for your family and pets for at least 3-5 days, that you have a disaster kit in your workplace and in your cars and never allow your gas tank to fall below half a tank. Find out your employer’s disaster plans for evacuation and shelter-in-place and how you will be contacted after an event. Contact your local fire service and inquire about Neighborhood Emergency Response Teams (NERT) in your area.  If they do not exist, ask about training and how you can form one. You can also visit the American Red Cross web page and enroll in their emergency preparedness classes.

Eden Medical Center and Sutter Health continuously prepare to respond to disasters, and we work closely with Alameda County Public Health and other health care and emergency services partners.  Our coordinated efforts greatly improve our ability to provide for the healthcare needs of our community. I’ll write more about how we prepare for disasters at Eden and within the community to ensure we are here when you need us most.

“It takes a lot of unspectacular preparation to produce spectacular results.”  – Roger Staubach, Hall of Fame Football Player

Cassandra Clark, Project Communications Director

shakemap2While California earthquake safety legislation is the driving force behind new hospital construction such as ours, earthquake safety doesn’t begin or end with new construction. For many years, Eden Medical Center has participated in the California Strong Motion Instrumentation Program (CSMIP) by placing seismic motion sensors in the building to gather vital information when an earthquake strikes.

Recently, the Sutter Medical Center Castro Valley project team reached agreement with the California Department of Conservation to place sensors in the new hospital once it is completed. The agreement is good news for seismic research, and it ensures that Castro Valley joins other Sutter hospitals with seismic sensors, including Sutter Coast Hospital, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center and Novato Community Hospital. New construction at Mills Peninsula and California Pacific Medical Center will also have seismic instrumentation to provide essential data on San Andreas fault activity and to record the performance of the unique seismic structural systems employed at these facilities.

The instruments are part of a statewide network of strong motion instruments that ensures any strong ground motion, from a moderate to larger size earthquake, in California will be recorded.

CSMIP map

Monitoring the Data

The CSMIP installations are advanced earthquake monitoring devices called accelerographs, which are placed at various representative geologic foundation materials to measure the ground shaking. When activated by earthquake shaking, the devices produce a record from which important characteristics of ground motion (acceleration, velocity, displacement, duration) can be calculated.

Accelerographs that are installed in buildings such as hospitals, bridges, dams, utilities and industrial facilities are selected by engineers and scientists representing industry, government, and universities. The program has installed more than 900 stations, including 650 ground-response stations, 170 buildings, 20 dams and 60 bridges. Many of these installations can be found locally along the Hayward fault (see map for more information).

The Office of Statewide Health and Planning and Development (OSHPD) arranged for CSMIP to begin instrumenting hospital buildings in 1989, and the program has instrumented 29 hospitals and health facilities throughout California.

Significant strong motion records have been helpful in shaping California’s seismic safety standards. Data gathered from the 1994 Northridge earthquake, for example, led to changes in California’s Uniform Building Code and gave engineers a greater understanding about the integrity of building structures after an earthquake.

An example of an accelerometer, placed at the Los Angeles Fire Command Center.

An example of an accelerometer, placed at the Los Angeles Fire Command Center.

About CSMIP

The CSMIP is a program within the California Geological Survey of the California Department of Conservation and is advised by the Strong Motion Instrumentation Advisory Committee, a committee of the California Seismic Safety Commission. Current program funding is provided by an assessment on construction costs for building permits issued by cities and counties in California, with additional funding from the California Department of Transportation, the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, the California Department of Water Resources, and other agencies.

More Resources

To learn more about the data collection and dissemination process, visit the CSMIP Website. To view existing data gathered from recent California earthquakes, visit the Center for Engineering Strong Motion Data.

All photos courtesy of the California Department of Conservation.


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