Planning for the uncommon disaster
I'll admit I was scared as our building swayed like a sunflower in a sunny meadow on August 23rd, 2011. It was the Virginia earthquake (http://www.usgs.gov/)making itself known along the eastern half of the country. I’m ashamed to say my first thought wasn’t to run outside but rather whether the 1901 building would hold up. Ridiculous, aren’t I?
The earthquake was a disaster preparedness wake up alert for the east. People in the west are well aware of what to do, where to go, etc., when an earthquake hits. The average person in the east however, do not. We’re shaky on the ins and outs of earthquake engineering.
Earthquake engineering was born from the Uniform Building Code adopted in 1927, and first used on the West Coast. It has been modified greatly since then. Structural analysis methods have made for safer buildings and seismic compliance is part of the everyday vocabulary in the west coast building industry. Senate Bill 1953 has taken it a step further for the healthcare industry, requiring all hospital buildings that are considered hazardous or a risk to be retrofitted or replaced by 2013. Yes, the race is on.
Is a bill like this needed on the east coast in the wake of the Virginia earthquake? No one really knows but it may be time to sit up and look. Modern engineering and construction has made buildings, especially healthcare facilities, safer than ever but should they be expected to take into account the many other disasters that may be a threat?
To drive home the importance of building structures that are durable during disasters: Hurricane Irene. The evacuation plans and warnings have gone out and residents along the east coast are battening down the hatches.