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February 27, 2020 – Contact the FacilitiesNet editorial team »
A man survived by accidentally driving his jeep from the sixth floor of a parking lot in Santa Monica on Sunday, February 23. Two passengers were able to jump out of the car before it plunged from the parking lot, according to the Los Angeles Times. Cars blowing away from parking lots seem like something that only happens in the movies, but it’s actually not as rare as one might hope. And the parking structures themselves may be partly to blame.
In June 2018, a car broke the security cables of another parking lot in Santa Monica. The city is currently in the process of replacing 50-year-old safety rails on several of their parking lots, as they no longer comply with the code, according to the Santa Monica Daily Press. Last year, the Indy Star reported finding at least 46 incidents of cars falling from parking lots over the past two decades, resulting in 22 deaths and nearly 30 injuries. They also report that uniform requirements for parking garage barriers were not put in place until 1990.
Even when garage barriers are installed according to code, they may not be sufficient to prevent a car from passing to the side. According to the 2012 International Building Code, vehicle barriers must withstand a concentrated load of 6,000 pounds, which includes a payload tolerance of an “ordinary impact condition”. Typically, that’s enough to stop a 5,000-pound vehicle traveling at 5 mph, according to Indy Star. However, some full-size SUVs and trucks on the market easily exceed this weight, not to mention the various circumstances that would cause a vehicle to travel faster than 5 mph in a parking structure. Additionally, in a public ICC hearing in February 2008, comments regarding vehicle barriers noted that changes in the height of the bumpers of vehicles, such as SUVs and larger trucks, affect the barrier’s ability to withstand impact from vehicles.
Beyond having to deal with the change in the composition of vehicles, the parking lots themselves face significant wear and tear due to their exposure to the elements. This could lead to a weakening of the barrier systems at the periphery. Some jurisdictions have passed legislation requiring parking structures to be periodically assessed and repaired, according to an article in Building Operating Management. However, in many other jurisdictions these inspections and repairs are left to the discretion of building owners and facility managers.
Naomi Millán is editor-in-chief of Building Operating Management.