Orange County Branch Newsletter
It's Never Too Late to be Prepared
By Ziad Mazboudi, PE
I would like to express my sincere sadness and condolences to the Japanese people, their families, and our fellow engineers for the latest disaster that recently rocked Japan. But as I write this, I realize that there have been a lot of natural catastrophes recently that remind us of the power of nature and our role as engineers in facing the challenges that come with living on Earth while dealing with nature’s might, and the consequences of its fury.
As we design structures or developments, we have pushed the envelope, sometimes building in areas on the edge of floodplains, where size and magnitude of new storms have exceeded past storms resulting in flooding of properties. We have learned to build structures that can resist earthquakes of a certain size, but larger earthquakes have caused serious damage to structures. We have seen the earthquake damage that New Zealand and Japan have suffered, but we also see (on what seems like a regular basis), flood damage in the U.S. due to severe weather including tornadoes in the Midwest and hurricanes in the southeast.
The latest storms that took place here in December caused massive damage to homes and flood control structures. A levee in San Juan Capistrano almost failed, if it had not been for the swift response by OC Public Works placing rip rap in order to prevent the levee from breaching. Well, everyone was lucky because if the storm had not subsided, part of the levee would have failed at Trabuco Creek that would have affected many residences and businesses.
The reason for my article is not to state the obvious, that in the battle of man versus nature, man will always lose, but what can we as engineers do to be prepared? First, we keep learning and improve how we design to reduce the impacts on the public, by building stronger structures, use alternative material that can handle various natural phenomena better, and recommend that we avoid building in areas that are more susceptible to disasters than others.
But, there is more that we can do. The public often believes that in a disaster, local, state, or federal government will come to the rescue immediately and life will go back to normal soon after. We all need to realize that this is not the case. As much good intentions as the government might have, we all have witnessed recent disasters such as Katrina and others, where people had to depend on their own resources to survive, until the government could help. In California, both local and state government are under huge financial burdens these days, and their resources are stretched very thin. We are witnessing layoffs such as what took place in Costa Mesa recently and the result of such actions equating to reduced resources to assist the public, especially during a major disaster. So, we need to learn how to help ourselves, our families, our neighbors and our region.
One of the most basic actions is to develop an emergency plan for you and your family. A good example can be found at http://www.ready.gov. Have you taken a First Aid/CPR class? If you don’t know how to deal with a bleeding arm or other injuries that could easily be handled by a trained person, while medical emergency cannot get to you, someone’s life could be in jeopardy. Sign up for a class, or hold a class at your work, so that you and your colleagues will benefit from the training. The colleague in the office next to you could end up saving your life. Disasters can strike when you are at home, at work or on vacation. Check out http:// http://www.redcross.org for classes. Build a disaster supply kit for your home, office and car. There are many sources for these kits, where some more elaborate than others. Pick what works best for you and your family. Identify your possible risks and work around them. What are the hazards where you live or work? Find out what natural or human caused disasters pose a risk for you. Do you live near a flood plain, an earthquake fault, or in a high fire danger area? Does your neighborhood or community have a disaster plan? As civil engineers, we are strategic thinkers and can help develop a plan for our neighborhood.
If you live in an inland area, very far from the ocean, you don’t need to worry about tsunamis, but you might be living near a fault, where earthquakes are possible. In that case, you should earthquake proof your home. Resources for these issues can be found on http://www.oes. ca.gov under earthquake preparedness tip sheets.
Preparing a plan is good, but you should also practice your plan. Take into consideration anyone with special needs, such as kids, seniors, or those with disabilities. You can also join a local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Most of the cities in Orange County provide training for CERT members that can teach you how to respond during a disaster. You can read about it at http://www.citizencorps. gov/cert. I don’t expect every civil engineer to become a disaster response expert, but these are some basic actions that you can do to be prepared. ASCE provides FEMA evaluators training, and we have provided local training and are always interested in holding classes. If your company is interested in training its engineers, please contact me and I can help you set up a class. After a disaster, evaluators are critical in evaluating whether a facility is safe to be occupied or not. Civil engineer volunteers are crucial to assist local government especially in a large disaster when they are overwhelmed, and this is when we are needed the most.
We held our first joint luncheon with the transportation technical group at our new venue, the UCI University Club. The luncheon was very well attended, the venue was great, and our speaker Harry Persaud was excellent. The reason for the move from our previous venue is to provide a less expensive venue to hold our regular event for our members who are facing hardship during the bad economic times.
Another event that we held this month was the seminar on storm drain design and construction that was set up by our continuing education. The goal of this event was to provide our members excellent educational opportunities at a reduced price. Bruce Philips of PACE, Phil Jones of OC Public Works/ Flood Control, and Dave Sorem of Mike Bubalo Construction were great speakers where 70 attendees enjoyed the presentations and training. The branch plans on holding more of these training sessions in the near future. We would love to hear from you if you have specific topics that you would be interested in learning more about.
Our Government Affairs committee was active this month as they headed to Sacramento to join other branches and sections in the Sacramento Fly-In. Jeannette Lindemann, chair of the committee, accompanied several of her committee members who met with legislators and discussed with them and their staff the importance of infrastructures and the role of civil engineers, and how we can assist them. Jeannette is always looking for new members for the committee as local efforts with legislators in their home offices are very important in helping us to meet our goals and having representation in various parts of the County.
Finally, I attended a great Life Member recognition event that was held by the LA Section to recognize some of our members who have been members for over thirty years continuously and are over sixty five years of age. I was amazed at the accomplishments that some of these members have achieved and encourage anyone who meets the requirements to submit for it.
A new addition to our branch is Cindy Miller from RBF, who will be chairing the branch’s marketing committee and who will help us promote our events and various programs. We welcome Cindy and look forward to having her on board. Finally, we want to hear from you, your opinions on what we are doing, what you want us to do, ideas on presentations, activities, and educational programs. We also want to hear about any interesting things you, your company or organization are doing so that we can share it with our members. We are in the final stages of launching our newsletter in a new digital format where the official launch will be in May. So we are looking forward to it and we hope you like it.