Posts tagged FEMA

Day 2 – Post-Earthquake Safety Evaluation of Buildings

day2 FEMA training in Somerton, AZ, today focused on ATC-20; evaluating building safety/integrity following an earthquake.  Chiefly we reviewed the ATC-20 form and engaged in discussion on how to recognize building type – i.e., material (wood, steel, concrete, unreinforced masonry) — and how to recognize potential structural and non-structural hazards. We were then presented with a suite of slides of damaged buildings and using the ATC-20 posting system — green – inspected and safe for occupation; yellow – safe for limited entry; red – unsafe, no egress – made selections based on ATC-20 criteria regarding building safety.

Mike Griffin also introduced the electronic version of Rapid Observation of Vulnerability and Estimation of Risk (ROVER), which uses Windows mobile smartphone to gather and transfer data.  The open source software remains in development stage but FEMA plans to release it later in 2011.

Mike Conway (11 August 2011)

Natl. Earthquake Managers – Day 2

Dr. Sandra Knight, FEMA

Among today’s highlights, Dr. Sandra Knight, FEMA’s Deputy Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administrator for Mitigation, addressed the group.  She started off by showcasing statistics of recent earthquakes – the dead, missing, event magnitude, cost, her point: earthquakes are among the most destructive and costly of natural hazards.

And she pointed out that natural hazards do not discriminate.  They strike the rich, the poor, developed and developing nations, rural and urban areas – a true equal opportunity calamity.

Knight who has a background in engineering and more than 20-years with the Army Corps of Engineers, asked the state earthquake managers, “What can I do for you”.   She perceives her role is as an advocate or champion for the nation’s earthquake managers.   And thus she aggressively pitches NEHRP to her fellow administrators at FEMA.

She stressed efficiency of scales, combining natural hazard mitigation and outreach efforts, the power of partnerships, and the importance of rubbing two nickels together.  And she pointed out that the time of doing more with less has passed; resources are too tight, budgets are crumbling and our single best hope is to build working partnerships that permit sharing the load.  She challenged us all to identify priorities – “what keeps you up at night” – and stick to them.

In her final statement she praised the earthquake managers for their successes and accomplishments.  It was a pretty good talk and she eschewed powerpoint slides altogether.  Bravo!

Mike Conway, 6 April 2011

Day 1 – Natl. Earthquake Program Managers Meeting

At 8:00 a.m. today, it was overcast and raining in Boise, Idaho.  The National Earthquake Program Manager’s meeting got to off to a great start, nonetheless.

Ed Laatsch (FEMA) at Natl. EQ Manager's meeting 5 April

David Applegate (USGS) and Ed Laatsch (FEMA) presented an update on NEHRP (National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program).   Among the issues raised in their joint presentation:

  • NEHRP is one of FEMA’s oldest programs at 34-years old;
  • The Japanese earthquake/tsunami is causing some to rethink proposed cuts to NEHRP funding;
  • Proposed budget cuts remain real and gathering threat to earthquake preparedness & mitigation;
  • All of us – federal, state, and county hazard crews – need to continue to broadcast and built on our successes.
  • FEMA’s contribution to building code improvements making U.S. safer;
  • Training, training, training – one avenue is FEMA’s Natl Earthquake Technical Assistance Program (NETAP)
  • Both FEMA and USGS continue to support building partnerships to enlarge pool of stakeholders.

It was a fine presentation and there were no shortage of questions at the end.  A particular intriguing question, and one that seemed particularly relevant in Boise, which resides near several faults capable of producing moderate-sized earthquakes, involved the massive damage at Christchurch:

What lessons can we learn from the Christchurch event of February 2011, where a modest 6.3 M earthquake caused so much destruction?

The answer, of course, is neither simple nor straight-forward.

Michael Mahoney followed the NEHRP presentation with a powerpoint presentation “Issues from Christchurch and Japan”.  This answered some questions and raised others.  Liquefaction played a central damaging role despite the short duration of the event – shaking lasted only 7 seconds; compare that with minutes of shaking for the Great Tohoku earthquake. Some newer, well-engineered buildings were irreparably damaged as one end of the building subsided in the wake of uneven settling.  As usual URM’s – unreinforced masonry structures – were particularly prone to damage.  The Christchurch business district remains cordoned off as civil authorities evaluate the damage done.

As far as we have come in earthquake preparedness and mitigation, it’s clear we have further to go.

Mike Conway, 5 April 2011

Earthquake Safety & Mitigation for School Buildings

I sat in on FEMA’s Earthquake Safety and Mitigation for School Buildings webinar this past Thursday.  FEMA’s goal: provide guidance to stakeholders on planning and deploying mitigation strategies for minimizing earthquake risk at America’s schools.

Bill Andrews of Walter P. Moore, and Associates Inc.  made the presentation.  FEMA representatives were on hand to address FEMA policy and funding programs.  His presentation comprised five elements.

  • Understanding earthquake hazards
  • Recognizing earthquake vulnerabilities in schools
  • Reducing EQ risk
  • Implementing Incremental seismic rehabilitation
  • Recommended actions

As Bill pointed out, risk of injury or infrastructure damage from earthquakes is considered a low probability — high consequence event; of course, in western U.S. the probability of such an event are somewhat greater.   FEMA uses the classic risk formula for quantifying risk;  Risk = Hazard * Vulnerability

FEMA favors an incremental seismic rehabilitation approach to mitigating risk.  This incremental approach minimizes disruption of school activities while providing opportunities to phase in mitigation strategies as part of building maintenance and upkeep, thus reducing costs.

Bill drew heavily from FEMA’s Risk Management Series, Incremental Seismic Rehabilitation of School Buildings (K-12) Providing Protection to People and Buildings.

There are three parts to the text:

Part A, Critical Decisions for Earthquake Safety in Schools, is for superintendents, board members, business managers, principals, and other policy makers who will decide on allocating resources for earthquake mitigation.

Part B, Managing the Process for Earthquake Risk Reduction in Existing School Buildings, is for school district facility managers, risk managers, and financial managers who will initiate and manage seismic mitigation measures.

Part C, , is for school district facility managers, or those otherwise responsible for facility management, who will implement incremental seismic rehabilitation programs.

Mike Conway, 18 February 2011

QuakeSmart – Mitigation Video

In 2003, a magnitude 6.5 earthquake occurred near San Simeon Bay, just three miles from the Hearst Castle.  A new video by FEMA, QuakeSmart – Mitigation Works for Business, extols the architectural design of the San Simeon castle which sailed through the quake suffering no damage.  Julia Morgan, a pioneer female architect and survivor of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, designed the building.  No doubt William Randolph Hearst would be enheartened.

In Nearby El Paso del Robles, just six miles from the epicenter, it was a mixed story.  Six months before the earthquake, local businessman Jim Saunders finished a seismic retrofit on his turn-of-the-century building.  They stiffened the building by installing ledger beams, trusses, I-beams and by reinforcing structural integrity by tying the interior walls to the outer walls.  His building, too, sailed through the quake with no damage.  But there the story takes a grim turn as Mr. Saunders describes how partial collapse of a building across the street killed two women.

QuakeSmart is six-minutes long with superior cinematography and compelling interviews.


Mike Conway, 8 February 2011

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