VA Palo Alto Health Care System
The Past Brings Home the Need for Seismic Safety
February 9th marks the 40th anniversary of one of the VA's greatest tragedies.
In 1971, at approximately 6:00 a.m., an earthquake on the San Andreas Fault destroyed the San Fernando VA Hospital in the town of Sylmar in Southern California. Forty-six people lost their lives, including 36 patients and 10 VA staff.
Since that time, VA has become a leader in the Federal Government in addressing the subject of seismic safety. The VA Palo Alto hospital was constructed and dozens of buildings have been strengthened to protect occupants from the risk of an earthquake; and millions of dollars have been dedicated to this effort.
Palo Alto, including the larger San Francisco Bay Area, is located in the highest seismic zone in the United States. Recent studies by the United States Geological Survey indicate there is a 62 percent likelihood of an earthquake of 6.7 magnitude or higher occurring in the Bay Area in the next 30 years.
Seismic safety continues to be one of the top priorities in VA Palo Alto's construction program. Many projects are underway today and others will be funded in the next several years to continue to improve the safety characteristics of VA Palo Alto facilities.