Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
Marshawn Lynch 24 of the Seattle Seahawks runs the ball against the New Orleans Saints during the 2011 NFC wildcard playoff game at Qwest Field on January 8 2011 in Seattle Washington

Do Seismic Celebrations Create Stadium Safety Concerns?

April 12, 2017
When the response of Seattle Seahawks fans to Marshawn Lynch’s amazing play in the final minutes of a 2011 playoff win against the New Orleans Saints created a seismic event, what did that mean for Seattle’s aging football stadium?

With his team leading 34-30 in the final minutes of a wild card playoff game against the New Orleans Saints in 2011, Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch took a handoff and exploded through the hole, beginning what would turn out to be a 67-yard touchdown run.

Sitting a few thousand miles away on a tiny island at North Tonawanda, N.Y., just outside of Niagara Falls, Douglas P. Taylor, CEO of Taylor Devices, no doubt looked at Lynch’s run through a different lens than most Seahawks fans that day. Taylor’s daily job involves controlling and stopping the movement of masses. No, he’s not a linebacker, he’s an engineer, and his company manufactures seismic dampers that protect structures during such events as earthquakes and high winds. He is inventor or co-inventor of 34 patents in the fields of energy management, hydraulics and shock isolation. In 2015, he was inducted into the Space Technology Hall of Fame by NASA and the Space Foundation.

As Lynch rumbled down the sideline for the game-winning touchdown, something else was rumbling in Seattle that day. His run led to such a frenzy in the stands that jumping fans caused a 1.0 earthquake to register at the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network.

Lynch helped set off seismic alarms again in 2014 on touchdown run, and football fans of another sort on the other side of the pond got into the act earlier this year, causing what amounted to a 1.0 Earthquake in Spain in celebration of an FC Barcelona win.

Taylor’s firm wasn’t involved in the construction of either facility in Seattle or Barcelona, but it was heavily involved with BC Place, a new stadium in Vancouver, and Safeco Field, the retractable roof stadium that serves as the home of the Seattle Mariners.

“Those who are going to sporting events should be made aware that technology already exists to protect a structure and its occupants during wind and seismic events,” Taylor says. “My hope is that a fan’s biggest worry is the score of the game and not whether the stands around him are going to collapse.”

Of Major League Baseball’s 30 stadiums, 18 were built in 1995 or later, with five of those opening in the past decade. When play opens on the 2017 NFL season, 10 of its stadiums will have opened their doors in 1994 or earlier, with the remaining 21 opening in 1995 or later.

“Any stadium in a high seismic zone that was designed before 1995 probably does not meet the updated seismic codes,” Taylor says. “For stadiums subject only to high winds, older designs may well meet the current codes. However, these codes usually only provide a structure that won't totally collapse.

While certain weather and nature-related phenomena such as hurricanes and snow storms can be identified by meteorologists well in advance to postpone games, there is no early-warning system for an earthquake.

Several professional stadiums – not to mention a large number of college football stadiums – are near fault lines in California and in the Midwest.   

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, there is a 7-to-10 percent chance an earthquake magnitude 6.0 or higher will strike in the next 50 years along the New Madrid Fault Line in the Midwest. California on the other hand – the current home of five MLB teams and four NFL teams – is staring down the barrel of a gun ready to fire off a 7.0 magnitude earthquake or higher at any time.

“The northern part of the state is long overdue for a powerful earthquake (7.0 or higher) along the San Andreas fault,” Taylor says. “San Diego and Los Angeles aren’t safe either. A new fault line was discovered in the Southern part of the state earlier this year that could cause an earthquake as powerful as 7.4 on the Richter Scale.”

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

Sponsored Recommendations

Free Webinar: ISO 45001 – A Commitment to Occupational Health, Safety & Personal Wellness

May 30, 2024
Secure a safer and more productive workplace using proven Management Systems ISO 45001 and ISO 45003.

ISO 45003 – Psychological Health and Safety at Work

May 30, 2024
ISO 45003 offers a comprehensive framework to expand your existing occupational health and safety program, helping you mitigate psychosocial risks and promote overall employee...

DH Pace, national door and dock provider, reduces TRIR and claims with EHS solution

May 29, 2024
Find out how DH Pace moved from paper/email/excel to an EHS platform, changing their culture. They reduced TRIR from 4.8 to 1.46 and improved their ability to bid on and win contracts...

Case Study: Improve TRIR from 4+ to 1 with EHS Solution and Safety Training

May 29, 2024
Safety training and EHS solutions improve TRIR for Complete Mechanical Services, leading to increased business. Moving incidents, training, and other EHS procedures into the digital...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of EHS Today, create an account today!