Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Earthquake early warning for estimating floor shaking levels of tall buildings

January 26, 2022

This article investigates methods to improve earthquake early warning (EEW) predictions of shaking levels for residents of tall buildings. In the current U.S. Geological Survey ShakeAlert EEW system, regions far from an epicenter will not receive alerts due to low predicted ground‐shaking intensities. However, residents of tall buildings in those areas may still experience significant shaking due to the acceleration amplification caused by tall buildings’ dynamic behavior, as recently experienced by residents of the 52‐story building in downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) during the 2019 M 7.1 Ridgecrest earthquake. Using more than 400 recorded response data acquired from 77 instrumented buildings in California, here we compare the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) P‐58 and American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 7‐16 simplified equations for peak floor acceleration (PFA), finding that the ASCE estimation is close to the median of data recorded in large and long‐distance events, whereas the current FEMA estimation is not suitable. In the second part of this article, four instrumented tall buildings in DTLA are extensively studied, and the performance of the simplified and response spectrum (RS) methods giving both an estimation of the free‐field horizontal peak ground acceleration (PGA) and pseudospectral acceleration is evaluated. The results show that the RS method is as accurate as the response history analysis as long as the ground‐motion RS is accurate, whereas the ASCE 7‐16 prediction is conservative. However, when ground‐motion RS or PGA is estimated for DTLA using a ground‐motion model (GMM), the performance of the RS method significantly degrades due to underestimation by the GMM at long periods. The results of this study imply that a nonergodic GMM, which may give more accurate prediction in Los Angeles, could improve the results for PFA when the building’s behavior is dominated by a few long‐period fundamental modes, as is the case for the 52‐story building in DTLA.