Disaster Response to the 2014 Napa Earthquake

When disaster strikes a community, the community steps up

Problem Statement

In the early morning hours of August 24, 2014, the earth beneath the Napa Valley began to tremble. In 20 seconds, hundreds of buildings and other structures were vigorously shaken, many of them sustaining extensive damage in the 6.0 magnitude quake. With many businesses and schools shut down and public agencies stretched thin on resources, business professionals from within and around the community stepped up in the demanding days and weeks following the Napa Earthquake. Engineers and architects were among the many professionals who worked tirelessly to get the community back up and running, and ZFA was proud to contribute to this important effort.

How ZFA Came to the Community’s Aid

Getting Citizens Back to Work

The effects of the earthquake on the community were perhaps even more severe than the damage to the buildings. Many businesses were closed, which had the biggest effect on employees who were not able to work. As an army of deputized building inspectors from all over the state placed yellow and red placards on hundreds of buildings following the earthquake, deeming them unsafe to occupy, building owners reached out to local engineers and architects for assistance.

ZFA has had a local presence in Napa for decades, and when the community was in need, ZFA was well-poised to assist. Structural engineers from multiple ZFA offices mobilized all around the county to review and assess damaged buildings, including many wineries. Some required only minor repairs or shoring to allow full or limited operations to commence. One by one, ZFA worked with teams of local professionals to regain use of buildings throughout the area. Businesses began to re-open, people went back to work, and customers slowly returned.

Getting Children Back in School

Following the earthquake, both public and private schools had suffered damage, and it was clear for the safety of all students that every school building needed to be thoroughly assessed before allowing re-occupancy. Teams of engineers were assembled within 12 hours of the earthquake, and a plan was developed to perform reviews of every building on all public school campuses in the district on the following day. ZFA personnel worked tirelessly alongside district officials and architects to assess damage and ensure that buildings were safe for the return of students within just two days following the earthquake.

Established Relationships with City Officials

ZFA’s relationships with local building officials and inspectors, as well as familiarity with local infrastructure, were key in expediting the process of getting businesses, schools, and public buildings back in operation. Immediately following the quake, City and County staff called on ZFA to begin assessments of dozens of public buildings. Within hours, ZFA had reviewed and assessed the PG&E headquarters in Napa and began assessing damage to the County’s Administration Building and its historic Carithers Building, which houses the District Attorney, Assessor-Recorder, Public Defender, and Child Support Services. Similarly, for the City of Napa, ZFA sent engineers almost immediately to assess fire stations, corporation yard buildings, and the city’s historic Goodman Library, which houses the Historic Society and Research Library. This work occurred simultaneously with assessments being completed for private clients and school districts, for which criteria and expectations for re-occupancy of damaged buildings were discussed and agreed upon with City and County officials. With thoughtful collaboration and trust built over many years of working together, a streamlined assessment and repair process was developed to expedite the recovery effort.

Repairing the Community, Not Just Buildings

Significant work was required to assist the community with its short- and long-term needs following the 2014 Napa Earthquake. As long-time members of the community, ZFA engineers were proud to play a significant role in coming to the aid of local businesses and schools not just to ensure structural safety, but to help those affected—neighbors, friends, and family—regain their livelihood.

As years pass it becomes easier to forget the details of the traumatic event that took place the summer of 2014. But for some at ZFA, the memories of the damage and destruction observed throughout Napa will never be forgotten. And the pride in helping our community when it was most needed will always be remembered as well.