Robert N. Roop, P.E., CBIE http://www.lockatong.com 5m 1,181
The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Value of Professional Engineers During Hurricane Season
Each year, six out of ten tropical storms transform into a destructive hurricane which causes massive damage to properties and often results in serious injuries to people, and worse- death. Hurricane season which starts from June 1 to November 30, is the time of the year where many people, especially those who live near the Atlantic coast, prepares for the massive onslaught that might destroy their hard-earned properties by seeking the help of professional home inspector and engineers.
Engineers, among all professionals, are one the most involved in mitigating the risks that hurricanes bring every year. Structural engineers, for instance, can be employed to assess if a building can withstand or counteract natural forces such as a hurricane- which can have maximum sustained winds of 252 km/h. By examining the building and its major components such as retaining walls, beams, columns, and foundations, structural engineers can generate helpful insights on what to improve or repair which can immensely reduce the amount of damage from hurricanes.
Aside from home inspection, engineers are also highly involved in developing risk mitigation planning months before the hurricane season starts. Risk mitigation planning involves an extensive research about the latest technologies that can help predict the hazards from specific areas such as water channels and mountain sides. They also conduct community-wide information dissemination to spread the advocacy of reducing identified risks that happen throughout the hurricane season. They are also tasked to further strengthen public infrastructures such as parks and railways to ensure that it can withstand high-velocity winds and proper drainage system is on spot.
Learn more about how professional engineers helps the community during hurricane season. Read this infographic from Lockatong and see the unrivaled value of engineers in making the whole hurricane season a lot safer for us.
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THE VALUE OF PROFESSIONAL ENGINEERS DURING HURRICANE SEASON
Hurricanes are cause for concern for everyone near the Atlantic Ocean. Within minutes of its onslaught, everything built in a span of a few years, gone in seconds. Not only are the properties affected, but lives and livelihoods are also lost.
During the past few years, more and more hurricanes have been stronger, bringing in much bigger damage and fear to the people in the United States. From June to November, at least 4 hurricanes are expected to hit the country.
In 2005, the entire southeast U.S. was under the siege of one of the largest and strongest hurricanes in history, Hurricane Katrina. The final death toll was at 1,836, primarily from Louisiana (1,577) and Mississippi (238). Billions worth of property damage, infrastructure, and livelihood were destroyed within minutes of its onslaught.
Seven years later, Hurricane Sandy brought devastation to New York, New Jersey, and other parts of the east coast. With billions worth of destroyed property it left behind, it is tagged as the second costliest hurricane in United States history.
“Hurricane Sandy represented one of the largest-scale evacuations declared in recent history in the United States,” said Edward Schneyer, director of Emergency Preparedness, Suffolk County Office of Emergency Management.
Housing is the largest component of the recovery process but needs more attention after there is a calamity—man-made or natural it may be. Because of the wide-scale damage of those natural disasters and the objective to immediately restart once the turmoil is done, engineers have been put under bad and good light alike.
Some are claiming that damage would have been greatly reduced has better preventive measures been in place. They argue that some structural engineering in and around New Orleans was flawed. On the other end of the spectrum, more people are acknowledging the need for engineers after the calamities have struck.
Engineers have the vital role of both in preparing for these storms and dealing with the aftermath. For engineering firms, this means not only safeguarding their own facilities and operations, but also those of their clients.
Because of this big responsibility, engineers are exerting their best efforts to be prepared and be accountable for the preparations before the hurricanes and at the same time, after it, and during recovery period.
Numerous studies, research, experiments, and observations were conducted since these most destructive hurricanes hit. Engineering firms are making their own efforts in preparing for hurricanes much stronger than the two stated.
As with everything else, the engineering business, not only in affected areas, but all over the United States has changed dramatically since Hurricane Katrina. Engineers, many of whom may have lost their homes and/or office, are finding it hard to keep up with the demand.
Professional engineers are required for certification of foundation and superstructure in V-zones, the areas of the coastline most susceptible to wind and wave action.
For the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), emergency responses is a critical factor in the resilience of our infrastructure and the long-term well-being of our nation’s citizens. Optimized disaster management requires the quick coordination of civilian, defense, federal, state, and local agencies.
Inasmuch as the professional engineer’s role is to protect public health and safety, free voluntary professional services should be restricted to evaluation and assessment services that are needed following the initial response efforts of first responders.
This is because the society believes that the support of the initial emergency responders (i.e. police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and the National Guard) should be able to perform their jobs first before the engineers take action.
Only after the safety and protection of the professional engineers’ lives and properties are secured can they have the presence of mind to be oriented and briefed on what to do.
Only then can they assist in these efforts by making their expertise and capabilities available for the difficult task of analyzing risks, evaluating damage, and reconstruction efforts. These individuals would agree to make themselves available to work as part of an overall emergency response team.
According to Professor Sivakumar of the University of Jaffna in Sri Lanka, Professional engineers have a profound role in post-disaster nation building. Engineers are the builders of the nation, and they have the responsibility to never re-build what was lost, but instead believe much better infrastructure, far greater that would “speak of our resilience; like a Phoenix rising from its ashes.”
Structural engineers have specializes knowledge that makes them the first ones called to assist after disasters like Hurricane Katrina. After calamities have struck, Civil engineers pool out their knowledge to draft plans on how to stand up again after the hurricanes.
Electrical engineers are exerting efforts to put back power lines as soon as possible, which is crucially needed initially to get things back to normal. Electronics and Communications engineers are working to restore communication lines which is the first facet of society needed to facilitate organization and unity.
Doctors may respond to casualties, the police’s first priority is restoring order, but the professional engineers’ role every hurricane season is both before and after calamities struck; from planning to actually making; to rebuilding and starting over again.
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