Post-earthquake assessment

28 nov 2019

Tractebel was called by Philippines authorities to urgently assess structural damage and safety after multiple earthquakes with magnitudes up to 6.6 hit the country last month.

Mindanao, the second largest island in the Philippines, was struck by multiple earthquakes in October, first on October 16th (magnitude 6.3), then the 29th (6.6), and again on the 31st (6.5).

Tractebel’s project manager and civil-structural expert, Ernesto Malicad Jr., was summoned by Local Government Units (LGUs) to assess affected areas and structures.

“Structural and earthquake engineering is constantly being upgraded as technology and research advance. Many breakthroughs come about from exposure to real situations. The exposure I and fellow teammates experienced can only enhance our skills and knowledge regarding structural and earthquake engineering,” said Ernesto Malicad Jr.

Ernesto shares more about what happens in a post-earthquake assessment in the interview below: 

What is the point of a post-earthquake assessment? How did you get involved in this activity?

EM: After an earthquake, a rapid structural safety assessment is conducted to quickly inspect and evaluate buildings and determine if they are safe for people to occupy, restricted or off-limits. Typically, this includes quick evaluation of the building’s structural components, such as beams and columns, and nonstructural components such as partitions, ceilings and electro/mechanical components. 

I have been involved in several post-earthquake and other post-disaster evaluations in the past. When I joined Tractebel this year, I was invited to be part of the ASEP DMPR team (Association of Structural Engineers of the Philippines, Disaster Mitigation, Preparedness and Response). This team specialises in conducting post-disaster rapid assessment.  I am currently a regional subcommittee Chairman of ASEP and was recently recognised as a Specialist in Structural Engineering. We render voluntary services to affected communities if there is a requirement for us to respond. 

My first rapid assessment was conducted on August 31, 2019, when the LGU – Burgos, Ilocos Norte – requested assistance to come up with quick-fix restoration solutions and recommendations for landslides affecting the foundations of Cape Bojeador Lighthouse. The lighthouse is a listed historical landmark and a National Cultural Treasure.

 

What was your role in the assessment of the latest earthquakes?

EM: As part of the ASEP DMPR team my focus was on the rapid structural safety assessment of buildings identified by Local Government Units. We were able to verify buildings which were safe and sound enough to occupy after the series of earthquakes and/or to recommend necessary measures if tagged yellow for restricted or red for off limits.   It was also an opportunity to observe and gather information and data that might be useful in the research and development of structural and earthquake engineering. This can be valuable in improving structural detailing and working toward guidelines for establishing more resilient communities.

How do you quantify or qualify results of your study? 

EM: We have certain protocols and criteria to follow.  An ASEP DMPR member must complete a seminar as well as pass examinations if necessary. Normally, the results and recommendations of the rapid assessment are released immediately so as not to impede “business as usual” for occupants, particularly at essential facilities such as municipal or city halls, hospitals, schools, telecommunications, etc. It is important to consider immediate remedial action to prevent or avoid further damage. 

Our team may recommend for a structure to go under a more comprehensive assessment or undergo Levels 2 or 3 if needed that would be undertaken usually by practicing structural engineers.  In Mindanao, we are only bound to do Level 1, or Rapid, Assessment as part of our community service initiatives. However, we sometimes provide quick-fix recommendations and schematic solutions if requested and if needed immediately.

How are these results used by the Local Government Unit?

EM: The results of the rapid assessment are turned over to the LGU for posting and they will have the final discretion to implement it.  And of course, since ASEP is the sole organisation expert in structural engineering in the country, LGUs always go along with its recommendations and use our assessment to guide their immediate actions.

They are open to ideas, suggestions and transfer of knowledge. When I go to site, I usually share some points and references that I think would be beneficial to them.  Last time, I suggested they obtain the latest edition of the National Structural Code of the Philippines and gave them some links to download free relevant documents, web tools and apps.

How do you plan to use these skills in your context at Tractebel?

EM: Structural and earthquake engineering is constantly being upgraded as technology and research advance. Many breakthroughs come about from exposure to real situations. The exposure I and fellow teammates experienced can only enhance our skills and knowledge regarding structural and earthquake engineering. Through my own observation, a lot of basic structural concepts such as building irregularities, structural modes of failures and earthquake theories were verified during the inspection and assessment. I will ensure that these issues are addressed or taken into consideration on all future detailed structural analyses and designs that I’m involved in, in addition to adhering to the structural codes. Right now, I am planning to draft a paper about common failures in buildings during an earthquake that can be shared later on.

My involvement has also been an opportunity to brand and position Tractebel in this line of expertise. Being part of the team has been a privilege.

 

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