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Earthquake Preparedness – Is Your Building Prepared?

Earthquake Preparedness – Is Your Building Prepared?

There have been many major advances in earthquake preparedness over the last 50 years, especially in the field of construction engineering.  Forty years ago, an international set of standards for building construction, called the Uniform Building Code, added specifications to fortify buildings against the force of seismic activity.  Those specifications included strengthening support material as well as designing new buildings to be flexible enough to absorb strong vibrations without falling or deteriorating.  With the research that has been done in construction engineering, we now know that it is extremely important to design new structures that can flexibly withstand the rocking and rolling of any seismic activity.

It is also interesting to note that many engineers and architects are attempting to develop even better innovations that would provide much greater protection against the earth’s movement.  Can you imagine a large building, or other type of structure, equipped with structural “fuses” that, instead of crashing to the ground, deliberately collapse upon themselves and then reform after the quake subsides?  Perhaps, one day that will be a possibility.

Scientists are also working to develop “smart” building materials – materials that will be capable of surviving the extreme forces generated by an incredibly strong earthquake.  One idea that is being researched is using fiber-optic sensors that can sense when a building is about to fail; the fiber-optic sensors would then send signals to very small ceramic strips built into the walls and frame, which would change shape to absorb the energy.

Another big component of earthquake preparedness is educating the public.  In California, most residents have been taught the basics of what to do when the earth moves and shakes. Children are taught about earthquake safety at an early age; they regularly practice the basic safety steps, “Drop, Cover, and Hold On!”, in school.  The United States Geological Survey (USGS) and other federal, state and local government agencies have produced a variety of brochures explaining what happens during an earthquake.  Many brochures give  instructions on how to prepare your house for a possible earthquake, as well as what to do when a quake hits.  These same agencies also have a large selection of useful information and guidelines available for business and commercial property owners.  It is never too early to ensure that all residents, tenants and employees know what to do when the earth starts shaking.

In the future, thanks to current research and technology improvements, earthquake preparedness will hopefully further minimize the loss of life and property associated with earthquakes.  Unfortunately, it will be a very long time, if ever, before we will be completely prepared for every major earthquake that might occur.  Earthquakes are an inevitable and inescapable force that is generated by powerful natural processes that shape our planet.  By increasing our understanding of seismic activity, we can hopefully develop better ways to deal with it.

Today, while many are researching new and more effective ways of protecting commercial properties, the current reality is this:  most buildings that were designed and built more than 15 years ago are not strong enough to withstand the forces of a major earthquake.  Earthquake retrofitting is typically needed for older properties for a variety of reasons; the most common reason to consider an earthquake retrofit is to ensure the safety and security of the building’s employees, machinery and inventory.  If you own or manage an older commercial property, it is definitely time to consider strengthening your building.  For more specific information regarding an earthquake retrofit inspection for your building, be sure to call the professional team at Saunders Commercial Earthquake Retrofit today!


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(949) 646-0034

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