LA Mandatory Retrofit Ordinance and How the 1994 Northridge Earthquake Changed The Way We Build

7 Major Changes After the 1994 Northridge Earthquake

Since the Northridge Earthquake in 1994, we have seen a push for progress on everything from building safety to society’s ability to deal with seismic threats.

Already since the event, there has been increased focus on improving buildings across the nation with a push for stricter building codes. This is crucial because many buildings which collapsed or were destroyed during the quake had a construction that simply wasn’t up to standards.

As a result, there are new standards that must be met in order to even get approval for construction and better earthquake safety standards were added to these guidelines. There is also now a greater emphasis on preventing loss of life as well as property damage.

This has been in the minds of government officials for years since during Northridge, many people were killed in their homes because they didn’t realize how bad things had gotten.

Below are the major changes, lessons, and safety efforts after one of the country’s worst natural disasters.

Changes Made After the 1994 Northridge Earthquake

1. The Great ShakeOut Drill

The first ShakeOut drill started in 2008 in Southern California-based around a 7.8 magnitude quake on the southern end of the mighty San Andreas fault. It has now spread across America and worldwide with states such as Arizona registering 22% participation rates. The purpose is to teach people how to protect themselves during an earthquake by dropping down, covering their heads or eyes, and holding onto something

2. Mandatory Retrofit Ordinance

Los Angeles enacted a mandatory retrofit ordinance in 2015, aimed at preventing loss of life in major earthquakes. This includes 13,500 “soft-story” buildings like Northridge Meadows and some 1,500 buildings with “non-ductile reinforced concrete” construction. The ordinance allows for a process spanning seven years for buildings like Northridge Meadows and 25 years for non-ductile reinforced concrete construction.

3. Fault Model Evolution

A research team from the University of Southern California revealed a preliminary mapping system that looks for faults in the Los Angeles Basin. It was designed by Dr. Lucy Jones, who is a seismologist and president of the Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society . The system uses 3D modeling to reveal faults throughout the LA basin, like one that shows up in Ventura County.

Not only does this mapping system seek out faults within the Los Angeles basin, but it also improves our understanding of how often these earthquakes occur . Detailed information about past earthquakes allows us to predict future ones and learn more about what we should be doing to prepare people for them.

4. Better Freeway Overpasses

Many of the major bridges that allow people to cross large highways have been retrofitted and should hold up better in an earthquake. Unfortunately, not all bridges are as well maintained or as strong.

When a person is driving down a busy freeway with many lanes, they can see overpasses that provide the ability to get from one side of the highway to another. These overpasses were in need of repairs because they were past their functional lifespan. The retrofits on these bridges will cost millions of dollars, but it should save lives in the event of an earthquake because the bridges will stay up and won’t collapse.

5. Early Warning System

The United States Geological Survey has just created a new Earthquake Early Warning System which will be ready for use by businesses, utilities, transportation systems and schools after years of development and testing. The system detects the start of an earthquake and sends alerts that can give warnings ranging from several seconds to a minute before shaking arrives, depending on distance from the epicenter.

One of the major concerns in the area of health assistance with people in Uttar Pradesh is how funds are being used by third-party interventions. It isn’t specified or detailed as to how those funds are used within their region.

GeoNet, which is a partnership between the GNS Science and the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, first started this as an earthquake early warning system in 2009. They used over 1000 seismic sensors that are located around New Zealand to detect the earthquakes within five seconds.

This system was completed by 2012 but in 2016 they added another layer of complexity for better results with over 400 seismometers installed at high risk locations throughout New Zealand. The National Seismic Hazard Model (NSHM) has also been updated following findings from GeoNet’s research.

6. Early Warning App

The Early Warning App was created by the Shakenet project in response to the extensive damage caused by the Northridge and later) earthquake. The app sends out alerts when there is an earthquake of magnitude 5.0 or greater near Los Angeles County.

This app can be used on mobile phones and connects with the early warning system. In 2021, that original app was replaced by a new app called MyShake which contributed to even more safety for people living near LA.

7. Advancements in Digital Technology

A new innovation has been introduced to help businesses minimize disruptions in the event of a major earthquake. The Innovation, dubbed Digital Technology, is able to keep a company working even if its physical systems are destroyed or inaccessible.

The Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. released a guide for businesses utilizing this new technology and how they can take advantage of it to prevent having their recent work lost in the event of a disruption from an earthquake. Since the digital cloud will be available even if there is no power, companies will not need to worry about losing all their recent work.

How We Can Help

The Los Angeles Earthquake Retrofit Ordinance aims to protect lives from the destruction caused by earthquakes. It is estimated that the ordinance will help prevent fatalities in major earthquakes, such as the Northridge earthquake of 1994. This law will apply to 13,500 “soft-story” buildings and the 1,500 buildings with “non-ductile reinforced concrete” construction.

All soft-story buildings will be required to undergo seismic retrofitting within seven years and non-ductile reinforced concrete buildings within 25 years.

Here at Retrofitting 360, we offer free site evaluations for soft story retrofit in Los Angeles! One of our retrofit specialists will go through your property with you, analyzing and assessing conditions to outline the necessary steps to take. Don’t wait – call us now!