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A structural engineer reviewing building codes with earthquake safety fasteners

Understanding Building Codes and Earthquake Safety Fasteners

Are building codes enough?


Did you know that it is now illegal for a driver of a Metro Train in California to text while driving a train?It is, though it wasn’t the law when a texting Metro Train driver crashed his train, killing 25 people.Once the tragedy occurred, lawmakers moved quickly to keep this type of disaster from happening ever again. Building codes are often like that, enacted quickly in response to specific disasters.

The 1994 Northridge earthquake inspired multiple rapid changes to the state building code of California, as has been the case with previous disasters going back as long as the building code has existed. Similarly, the building codes in other states focus on life safety for disaster common to the area.

Unfortunately for regulators, ongoing disasters don’t always happen in the same manner and frequency as they have in the past. There seems to be a never-ending parade of new and scary things happening, and it is reasonable to expect this trend will continue. Though this ensures building codes will continue to evolve, the fact of the matter is that codes are always playing catch-up, made in response to the latest bad thing, whatever it may be.

When it comes to earthquakes, the building codes in most states focus on ensuring life safety, regardless of what is known about their potential impact. While a noble goal, this means there are many preventable repercussions from earthquake that are ignored. Additionally, there is a widespread disconnect between this fact and the public perception about the effectiveness of the code.

Most people are under the impression that “the building code will save us.” That is just partially true. While life safety, most certainly a critical goal, is enhanced with such codes, continuity of operations and asset protection is not a function of building codes.

This is where the broader application of earthquake safety fasteners could make a significant difference. As the example below demonstrates, earthquake safety fasteners can fulfill a dual purpose. These devices go beyond building codes, by contributing to life safety, and provide the protection of assets and the ability to allow for uninterrupted operations following an earthquake.

On August 24 th of 2014, a 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck Napa, California. Significant damage occurred that construction and retrofitting to the current building codes would have prevented (a topic for another blog). Houses slipped off foundations, chimneys collapsed, and older, historic buildings suffered damage.

However, the damage did not stop there. In some places, even where the then current building code had been adhered to, it did not make a difference. One such location was in a physics laboratory space, located in the basement of the local community college. Classrooms here sustained damage to the degree that rendered the spaces unusable.


A lab that was up to code, but unfortunately did not use earthquake safety fasteners

This lab was up to California Building Code, but unfortunately not fastened with earthquake straps.


In most earthquakes that cause damage, it is items inside buildings, rather than the buildings themselves, that prove the most vulnerable to shaking. Those building codes which do address the securing of building contents only require the securing of equipment of certain height and weight.

Earthquake straps for lab equipment, television fasteners and refrigerator earthquake straps, can ensure that all types of spaces, from laboratories to libraries, kitchens to garages, remain usable following an earthquake. It is essential to think beyond the code and to fasten items using earthquake safety straps, like the engineered and patented ones found at www.SAFE-T-PROOF.com.

Next article Joan Rivers, Anderson Cooper, The Rock, and a dinosaur. What do they all have in common? They’ve all taken a ride on the Quake Cottage™

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