photo of VA Building in San Diego building schematic
In the San Diego, California VA Medical Center, the recently retrofitted main hospital building is equipped with earthquake monitoring systems. Red arrows in the schematic diagram show the locations and indicate the directional sensitivity of the seismic sensors from the basement through the building’s seven stories to the roof. The triaxial sensor on the ground floor (at lower right) monitors the input motions in three orthogonal directions.

Instrumented Buildings

After a major earthquake it is imperative to check the condition of structures in order to be able to assess their structural integrity for public safety.

Recordings from structures instrumented with sensors help engineers assess the structure’s safety and functionality in a timely fashion. Such recordings are also critical to designing safer infrastructure, and to preventing loss of life.

In particular, monitoring structures helps engineers to:

More than 250 structures throughout the United States have been outfitted with seismic sensors by the USGS National Strong Motion Project (NSMP) to improve the overall understanding of earthquakes and their effects on the built environment.

The instrumentation and monitoring of structures by NSMP is only one part of USGS efforts to protect people’s lives and property from earthquake hazards in all of the Nation’s seismically active regions.

Shaking Visualizations

These videos present a visualization of how the Atwood Building and Frontier Building in Anchorage, Alaska shook during the M7.1 earthquake on January 24, 2016. The buildings were instrumented by U.S. Geological Survey to obtain data to study their behavior and performance during strong shaking.