Drop, Cover, and Hold On at 10:20 a.m. on October 20, 2016 during The Great California ShakeOut. Participating in the annual event is a great way to make sure you are prepared to survive and recover quickly from substantial earthquakes – whether you are at home, at work or traveling. Personally, I think Shake-n-Bake pork chops would be a great way to mark the occasion.
To help mark the occasion and call attention to earthquake preparedness, we want to take this opportunity to educate our subscribers and friends about earthquake preparedness in high-rise buildings. We would like to extend our thanks to Safe-T-Proof, which provided their “Quake Cottage” for a Pre-Great California Shakeout event. They offer superior earthquake fasteners and straps for offices as well as survival kits and additional earthquake-safety supplies.
The latest and greatest in earthquake-resilient design is currently being implemented to build the Wilshire Grand Center in Los Angeles, which, at 1,100 feet, will make it the tallest building on the Pacific coast. The building’s massive foundation is so robust that its construction is noted in the Guinness Book of World Records for the “longest continuous concrete pour.” I wonder who holds the record for the longest bacon feast?
Despite how odd it feels to stand in a tall building that sways during an earthquake, modern California high-rises provide safer refuge during earthquakes than most shorter facilities. This is because architectural plans and construction for high-rise California structures built after the Sylmar quake in 1971 are required to follow stringent seismic codes. You can further improve your high-rise earthquake survival odds by taking preparedness steps.
Safety Tips for High-Rise Earthquakes
- Stay put. Sitting down under a desk or doorway is the safest way to “ride out” a quake while it’s happening. Most earthquakes are relatively short. So it is safer to patiently wait a quake out instead of trying to exit the building as it moves. Even with four legs, I find it difficult to maneuver during earthquakes.
- Stay alert. After exiting a building, tenants should move under cover in order to avoid falling debris such as panes of glass. Also, pay attention to warnings of fires or tsunamis which can follow any quake.
- Stay informed. Tenants in high rises should be familiar with evacuation protocols for their building. A speedy yet orderly evacuation is crucial for ensuring building occupant safety. The National Fire Protection Association offers an evacuation plan video that encourages individuals to take ownership of their safety while following safety procedures.
Allied Universal offers these earthquake safety tips for anyone who may not be in a high-rise to follow:
- Drop to the ground. Take cover by getting under a sturdy table and hold on. Stay inside until the shaking stops.
- Stay away from glass or anything that can fall, like light fixtures and furniture.
- Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes.
In a Fire…R-A-C-E to Safety!
- Rescue—Remove any employees or visitors from immediate danger.
- Alarm—Pull the nearest Fire Alarm and call the proper emergency phone number.
- Contain—Contain all smoke and toxic fumes by closing all doors and windows.
- Extinguish and Evacuate—Follow all posted and verbal procedures.
- Stay where you are if you are not near any buildings, streetlights or utility wires.
- Do not move from the area you are in until the shaking stops. Remember that aftershocks can be just as bad as the earthquake itself.
In a Moving Vehicle
- Stop as quickly as possible, but stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses and utility wires.
- Proceed cautiously once the shaking has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that have been damaged.
Built to Withstand Quakes
Modern high rises, such as the Wilshire Grand Center, undergo considerable earthquake modeling and testing before they are complete. Taller buildings must withstand massive amounts of force from earthquakes and wind, so engineers make sure construction will withstand the “worst case scenario.” To me, any worst case scenario involves cats.
High-Rise Earthquake Safety Features
- Tuned mass dampers. These are massive weights that are mounted within a building and designed to move opposite to the oscillations of the structure. For example, the massive Taipei 101 skyscraper damper weighs 660 tons.
- Simple roller bearing. This is a type of “base isolation” where the movement of the building is mitigated by bearings, which absorb some of the energy, thereby minimizing the building’s lateral movement. This is a common technique that essentially removes the structure from the ground, so it “floats” freely.
- Sway. Engineers build the structure to withstand a certain amount of sway, knowing that there is a direct relationship between the height of the building and seconds of associated, safe side-to-side movement.
Building design is always dynamic, with new materials and procedures explored that can make buildings safer and more aesthetically pleasing. For instance, the growing use of cross-laminated timber (CLT) is pushing architects to consider high-rise wood buildings in Seattle and other areas. Sounds like a good idea to me!
Remember that safety is a daily priority for everyone, not only those working or living in high-rise buildings. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Allied Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.