Seismic Safety: Will California Hospitals Be Ready for the Next Big Quake?

RAND Corporation


This is archived content; for historical reference only.

Following the 1994 Northridge earthquake, which caused an estimated $3 billion in damage to Southern California hospitals, state lawmakers acted to strengthen seismic safety standards and ensure that hospitals would continue operating after a strong earthquake.

Known as SB 1953, the legislation established a schedule for meeting seismic safety goals by instituting firm deadlines for retrofitting and/or reconstructing those hospitals classified as collapse hazards. Hospitals were expected to meet these goals in two phases: the first by 2008 (now extended to 2013) and the second by 2030.

This report by the RAND Corporation, and funded by the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF), is a follow-up to a similar 2002 study. It examines the progress California hospitals have made toward meeting SB 1953 deadlines, outlining the significant compliance challenges hospitals face and the difficult policy choices that must be weighed. It also provides potential options for policymakers working to achieve full implementation.

The analysis reveals that almost half of the hospitals needing retrofitting will not meet the 2013 deadline, and many construction projects will not meet the final 2030 deadline. In fact, it may take more than 30 years, and as much as $110 billion, to fully implement the law.

In addition to the full report, CHCF has provided an issue brief with highlights of the report, a fact sheet, and a list of key questions and answers related to SB 1953 compliance. The publications are available under Document Downloads.