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Safety And Security

Earthquake Preparedness Planning

November 10, 2011
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An average of 27,000 earthquakes have been recorded worldwide every year for the past decade.

This year alone, the United States has experienced more than 3,800 earthquakes with notable events as recently as October 20, 2011, when a 4.8 magnitude earthquake hit Southern Texas.

It''s not a matter of if an earthquake will take place, but more a matter of when.

The question, particularly in those moments following an earthquake, is whether or not the building is safe and can be reoccupied.

A new technology has been introduced to help answer that question in less than 15 minutes following an event.

Dr. Farzad Naeim, president of the Los Angeles Tall Buildings Council and past president of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, explains that, while we often associate earthquakes with the visual spectacle of a fallen building, in reality, most buildings today remain standing due in great part to our increased understanding of seismic events, new building codes and the cooperation of architects, building owners and structural engineers.

However, it is often difficult — if not impossible — to visually confirm the structural integrity of a building following an earthquake, and it is equally challenging to achieve this assessment quickly.

Typically, a qualified structural engineer is required to do modeling and conduct a visual examination prior to making an assessment.

And, even then, the assessment can be wrong.

As Dr. Mustafa Erdik, professor of earthquake engineering and chairman of the Department of Earthquake Engineering at Bogazici University in Istanbul, stated in a recent New York Times report, "To say that a building is in bad condition is easy; to say that one is safe is hard."

Delivering Structural Integrity Reports Within Minutes

A new smart system technology is providing real-time monitoring, damage detection and performance evaluation reporting that dramatically speeds up the damage detection and analysis time, enabling facility and maintenance managers to make immediate decisions regarding occupancy and repairs.

This technology, which can be manually activated to generate a routine health assessment or automatically triggered by sensor threshold exceedance, combines real-time sensor data with sophisticated structural algorithms based on proven engineering methodologies such as FEMA-356, HAZUS-MH, ASCE-41 and ATC-58.

As a result, in less than 15 minutes following a triggered event, the system produces detailed, actionable damage probability report data in a format that immediately benefits structural engineers, building owners and facility managers.

"Imagine the value of knowing the actual health of a building just minutes after an earthquake event," says Dr. Naeim. "A building emergency management team can determine on the spot whether to allow tenants back into a building or evacuate it. They can even receive detailed reporting on critical structural and non-structural components — like a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system or server system — and know what''s damaged as well as the estimated time and cost to repair. This technology closes the time gap so building management teams can react quickly to get their building operable again."

Additionally, the new technology is turnkey and available through a subscription model versus an upfront capital expense.

"Our model is simple: Provide everything from the initial building evaluation and installation to the 24/7 reporting system and on-call structural engineering support," states Angela Miller, Digitexx Data Systems director of marketing. "By providing the system through a monthly subscription, building managers can avoid huge upfront capital investments and categorize the system as an operating expense, making additional safety measures more affordable."

Mark Sereci, chief executive officer (CEO) and president of Digitexx Data Systems has 40 years'' experience in the field of earthquake engineering, structural dynamic monitoring and instrumentation. He can be reached at To learn more about real-time structural health monitoring systems for buildings, visit

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