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Structural fears keep firefighters out of burned building

March 29th, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

311xinlinegallery.jpgReported in the Houston Chronicle (March 29, 2007)

Fears about the structural integrity of a burned-out six-story office building in which three people perished are keeping firefighters from entering today to see if any more victims remain in the ruins, officials said today.

While there were no reports of anyone missing, the firefighters were waiting for an engineer to give the green light to enter the building again. Its not clear in the article what’s keeping the engineers from making their evaluatlion. I assume they’re waiting for the fire to be put out, after which they could assess if the building is dangerous. Only after this assessment could the firefighters enter the building, room by room, to complete their search for victims.

This got me thinking about a FEMA-sponsored seminar on ATC-20, for rapid post-earthquake safety evaluations of buildings, that I attended a couple years ago. The idea was to equip engineers with a framework to do effective structural evaluations quickly following a disaster. While this fire wasn’t a widespread disaster, it highlights the role of structural engineers in the recovery, following an accident or disaster. For engineers who aren’t building inspectors everyday, but spend most of their time in a design setting, I think the ATC-20 course could be useful.

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  1. March 30th, 2007 at 13:18 | #1

    Update to the story here:

    Basically, the engineers concluded the building would remain intact as long as its floors are reinforced.

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