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Big-box stores are earthquake resistant

Are all these big-box, concrete block stores being built around town earthquake proof?

— Bill M., Medford

"Earthquake proof" is a pretty tall order, Bill.

We checked in with Chris Reising, Medford’s deputy city manager, and he said, “I don’t think anybody can say anything is truly earthquake proof.”

Instead, the city and most engineers prefer to say earthquake resistant.

Different buildings have different standards that can make them more or less earthquake resistant than another building. There are four different rankings for buildings, depending on what kind of service they offer.

For instance, the new Medford police station is being built to the highest ranking and should be able to survive a major earthquake and continue operations. Likewise, new fire stations, hospitals and shelters are all built to this high level of earthquake resistance.

Reising said the engineering of the building looks at the type of soil to estimate how the earthquake might shake the building both horizontally and up and down.

Schools and nursing homes are one step down at Category 3, so they should survive a strong earthquake but aren’t built to resist as strong an earthquake as a Category 4 building.

As to your question, Bill, big-box stores and many buildings are designed to stay standing after an earthquake so that people inside aren’t injured. They are built according to Category 2 standards.

“The idea is that the building won’t collapse,” Reising said. City Hall was retroffited to Category 2 standards

However, the building may not be able to be occupied after the quake.

Category 1 buildings, which have fewer earthquake-resistant features, include storage units and agricultural buildings.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. To see a collection of columns, go to mailtribune.com/youasked. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.