Safety is Action

Before an earthquake hits think well of safe structures



It was frightening to see an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.7 on the Richter scale with epicenter in Baderwah area of J&K causing damage to innumerable houses and loss of some lives as well. The epicenter of the Earthquake is located on the Chenab valley along the confluence of major fault-lines of Panjal and Murree.
In this regard, the article written by Aamir Ali under title “Earthquake Save Yourself” on May 04, 2013 is worth appreciating. He is clear in explaining to the readers about what they must do during and after an earthquake. It is, however, worth realizing that when he touches the area of retrofitting and Earthquake Resistant Design, he puts the onus on the people to decide their own fate. One, it involves a little higher cost to construct the earthquake resistant structure. Second, it requires a building rule under municipal rules for such measures to be implemented on ground. I appreciate Amir Ali for his work on Disaster management but I do not see the real time focus in Disaster Mitigation, i.e. before earthquake safety. Besides, schools and institutional buildings are all constructed by either authorized agencies or registered firms or corporation or institutions or trusts. It should not be difficult to put them under the IS provisions required for earthquake resistant design.
Before Earthquake:
Prevention is better than cure. In case of an earthquake, the life saved by preventing falling of walls, of ceilings and falling of objects needs priority. Recently, I saw a building that had an impressive architecture, beautiful interiors, but it had a giant column from ground to fourth floor in an RCC pipe at its entrance. What we should realize that:
1.Buildings are important for our existence. When we take a piece of land, we put masons to work, we buy the materials and we spend millions. But to see whether that spending is worth, we need to consult the design engineers. All that our building requires is not a beautiful look, but required strength as well.
2. Avoid construction of residential houses in marshy swamps, in agriculture land, on slopes, in wetlands and besides national highways.
3. Look for a firm soil, an even terrain and a non-congested space to construct the residential building.
4. Construct as per structural designers drawings and not just architects plan.
5. It is not important to construct as per old technique of “Dhajji-Dewari” and “Taaq” construction but modern techniques with good design are also sufficient. However, the maintenance of quality of workmanship and of materials needs to be screened by asking the designer to visit the construction site a few times.
Role of Authorities:
1. It is high time to frame the design control laws for residential buildings by the municipal authorities. All new constructions need approval from expert designers.
2. All old institutional buildings and new buildings after 2005 that have not been constructed as per earthquake design rules, need to be analysed for building resistance and accordingly retrofitted, restored or rehabilitated.
3. Srinagar city needs to be seismic micro-zoned and rehabilitation areas clearly ear-marked in earthquake master-plan.
4. 5% building cost that goes in retrofitting of weaker buildings needs to be provided as a housing loan or implemented under some centrally granted scheme.
The onus lies on us all to prevent ourselves for better earthquake safety. But schemed plan is a vital consideration in implementation of all major or minor execution details. Safety is not reaction but action.
Author is a Structural Engineer, and works as Assistant Professor, at IUST

Lastupdate on : Tue, 14 May 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 14 May 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 15 May 2013 00:00:00 IST

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