California Engineers Urge Stronger Preparation for Disasters

Recent days are a reminder that our environment is dynamic, powerful, and at times threatening; and that community preparation is critical. Harvey inundated Houston with record-setting rainfall, Irma lashed the Caribbean with Category 5 winds and continued it’s path of destruction through Florida and the Southeastern United States, Jose looms as a hurricane in the Atlantic, and late Thursday night, Southern Mexico was rocked by its most powerful earthquake in a century. The Structural Engineering Association of California extends its profound sympathy to those who have lost loved ones and property in the Southeast United States, the Caribbean and in Mexico, and honors and supports those who brave danger to help others whether they act as professional rescue personnel or private citizens extending a helping hand.

The current string of extraordinary disasters demonstrates that disasters rarely happen in isolation. Storms such as Harvey and Irma can result in incredible wind damage in conjunction with flooding from storm surges or swelling of river and lakes due to upstream rainfall. Earthquakes may unleash floods, landslides, fires and toxic spills, and are sometimes followed by nearly equally powerful aftershocks. Unfortunately, the effects of such disasters can last well beyond the physical devastation, resulting in prolonged impact to communities over days, months and even years afterward as the community or region rebuilds.

Across the state, nation, and international boarders, structural engineers play a key role in responding to events such as those in recent news. Structural engineers examine damaged structures and infrastructure systems to determine their level of safety during search and rescue operations, and formally classify them for occupancy in working to return communities to normal as quickly as possible. Structural engineers also play a critical role in improving the response of the built environment to these types of disasters, through research; innovation; in developing, enforcing, and improving building codes worldwide; and ensuring proper implementation of construction practices; to minimize loss of life and property. We study and learn from every disaster and work to continuously improve society’s resilience to harmful events.

A key outcome of this learning is that everyone is…

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