Information and resources for Southern California

5-Story Building, Hospital Rattle For Earthquake Test

Building codes, durability and fire threats are examined in a weeks-long earthquake test

By Craig Fiegener and John Simerson
|  Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012  |  Updated 11:04 PM PDT
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Capt. Tim Strack with the Riverside Fire Department says seismologists and first responders are learning how a five-story building reacts to a massive earthquake. The building, furnished and equipped with a hospital wing, was hit by a simulated 6.9-magnitude quake, and there’s weeks more in store. Craig Fiegener reports from Riverside for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on April 17, 2012.

Capt. Tim Strack with the Riverside Fire Department says seismologists and first responders are learning how a five-story building reacts to a massive earthquake. The building, furnished and equipped with a hospital wing, was hit by a simulated 6.9-magnitude quake, and there’s weeks more in store. Craig Fiegener reports from Riverside for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on April 17, 2012.

A five-story building, fully furnished with a top-floor hospital shook violently in San Diego Tuesday.

Special Section: Earthquake Info, Maps, Resources

There wasn’t an earthquake, but top seismologists from across Southern California pulled out all the stops to mimic a ground-rattling 6.9 magnitude quake.

The building is 80 feet tall and equipped with 500 sensors and 80 cameras to document how well it held up under the pressure of a series of massive earthquakes.

“The building has been wired with video,” said Captain Tim Strack of the Riverside Fire Department. “We’re going to do a series of fire tests on the damaged building to see how the contents respond when a fire is started post-event.”

The quake test is a near worst-case scenario for what could happen on the San Andreas fault-- much of which is in the Inland Empire.

Scientists have a few goals in mind for the tests, which are slated to last about two weeks. One is to see how objects inside the building hold up to the shaking; and they’re testing theories about building codes.

“We’ll be able to see if the building construction being compromised changes the way the fire behavior happens,” Strack said.

Geologists and experts from UC Riverside will be in San Diego all week, studying a disaster that could begin in Riverside County. The San Andreas Fault hasn't had a major rupture in recorded history.

The test costs about $5 million, funded by a number of government agencies, and what's learned could save countless lives and quake-related property damage.

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