Orange County Branch Newsletter

April 2015

President's Message

Disaster Preparedness- Learn More

By Gary Gilbert, PE, GE

I feel that disaster preparedness is the most important area we should be preparing our members.  The best way to advance the profession and to educate the public about Civil Engineering is to be there for people in their time of greatest need.  When I joined the board we had one board member active in disaster preparedness but no Disaster Preparedness Committee.  I am very grateful that Sudi Shoja from DS Services became the chair of our disaster preparedness committee last year.  To increase the number of Civil Engineers in Orange County who would be prepared to assist when a natural disaster occurs, she immediately held a Safety Assessment Program (SAP) training after becoming committee chair. Our class last year was offered at a special reduced price to  facilitate interest in our members in becoming active in this committee. Unfortunately we still have a committee of one, perhaps partially due to lack of interest, or maybe because we need to revise the focus for the committee.

One of the areas I am particularly interested in is historic structures.  The recent earthquake in Napa, a city of which I was resident of for 7 years, had a big impact on me last year.  I realized that historic buildings are really being designed to avoid collapse and life safety, but many may need to be demolished after an earthquake.  I really enjoy visiting historic downtown Napa and recently I have been making regular visits to downtown Los Angeles to learn more about the historic structures like the Million Dollar Theater and the Bradbury Building, to name a few.  To think that many of the buildings may no longer be there for future generations is troublesome for me.  I understand that this is part of living in a high seismic risk area, but we used to say that about most new buildings until recently.  With the current building codes, Civil Engineers are designing structures to withstand larger more intense natural disasters.

I hope there are many other Civil Engineers in Orange County who feel passionate about historical structures like I do and we can start to have programs in the OC Branch to discuss the latest developments of strengthening existing structures for current design level earthquakes When I visited Frank Lloyd Wright homes, I recognized that each building was saved by a structural engineer.  The public sings the praises of great architects, but I hope we can also add to the publics’ knowledge about the role of the Civil Engineers who design/repair the buildings so they may last for many future generations to enjoy.  Even within the Civil Engineering profession, we don’t know many of the Civil Engineers who designed historical structures like the Golden Gate Bridge that are enjoyed by people from all over the world.

I am thrilled that Chad Harden, PE, SE from RBF/Michael Baker has agreed to be the chair of the OC Branch’s Structural Engineer Institute (SEI).  I was excited to hear Chad share the innovation behind the repair of the Tustin Blimp Hangar that was damaged.  We have already  discussed the possibility of having an event about  rehabilitation of existing structures as one of  our luncheon presentations or continuing education seminars.

One of the best ways to be ready for a natural disaster is to build structures now that can withstand most earthquakes and still remain functioning for many years after the event occurs.  Civil Engineers have made major improvements in our capabilities to design structures to remain in operation after large natural disasters, but one area where we need to continue  developing is the rest of  our infrastructure.

ASCE has a Technical Council on Lifeline Earthquakes Engineering (TCLEE) to address the issue of having functioning lifelines for water, transportation, and other areas of Civil Engineering so that communities will be able to continue to function after a major earthquake.  This committee commonly sends members to areas around the world that have endured a large seismic event to learn more about how we can improve infrastructure to survive large earthquakes.  The OC Branch has several members active in this committee, but I do not recall us ever having a program discussing the advances in the design of lifelines.  If you are a member of this technical council I would like to discuss what opportunities there are for programs or seminars to educate our members about the latest in designing lifelines.

We plan to have another SAP training in Spring 2015 and please look out for the invitation  should be coming out soon.  Hopefully this event will be the beginning of building excitement for disaster preparedness.   Feel free to contact me directly at [email protected] if you would like to discuss further.