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Emergency Response on a Damaged Building Structure

Emergency Response on a Damaged Building Structure

Sudden damage to a building structure can pose a significant risk to the public. Thus, whether the damage appears following a fire, a vehicle impact or inadequate construction works, the subsidence or partial collapse of a building necessitates a rapid preliminary assessment of the structure to identify the extent and cause of the failure of the building structure.  If possible, the building will be stabilized to secure the site.  This assessment will limit the development of damage and implement the necessary measures to ensure the safety of users and the public.

The engineer appointed for such an assessment will first identify the extent of the damage to the structure by collecting as much information as possible on site. It will then be possible to assess the risks of a rapid damage increase and the risks of public safety. Depending on the information collected, emergency measures may be established: a security/evacuation perimeter, temporary stabilization/shoring of load-bearing elements or the demolition of building sections/elements too precarious to be recovered.

Pyrotech BEI   Pyrotech BEI

In addition to ensuring everyone’s safety, the expert will identify the cause of the damage. Since there can be several causes explaining the damage, the expert has to collect as much information as possible on the building, such as the history and evolution of the structure since its original construction, including, in the best‑case scenario, the initial plans and modifications carried out over time in order to better understand the dynamics of the building and to recommend the adequate rehabilitation works. The information gathered from the owner can also help understand the composition and the modifications made to the building.

Pyrotech BEI   Pyrotech BEI

Thus, the expert’s observations, the documents and information collected and, if necessary, the tests carried out will make it possible to complete the preliminary assessment, identify the cause of the damage and propose the necessary interventions for a temporary support and rehabilitation of the building if possible.

Pyrotech BEI    Pyrotech BEI

In conclusion, sudden damage to a building structure must be taken seriously and quickly since it may affect public safety. Once the risks are assessed and the safety measures established, the search for the cause can be carried out and the possibilities of the building rehabilitation can be implemented. The faster the intervention and the more complete the information, the more it will facilitate the fulfillment of the expert’s mandate to guarantee the safety of the premises and limit the extent of damage to the building.

by Fabio R. Melo, Eng. M.Sc. - Civil Engineering Department