Thursday, 7 May 2015

Time to prepare for earthquake before it strikes

Following the provisions of National Building Code (NBC) can provide safety not only from earthquakes, but other disaster risk vulnerabilities such as cyclones, flooding, landslides, tsunami as well as terrorism attacks.

Further, this will provide safety not only from Structural safety point of view, but also from Fire safety, Health safety and Life safety.

The fundamental need is to have transparent information of the vulnerabilities and risk perceptions for any location in the country and from all natural hazards and disasters. The NBC has the Vulnerability atlas for seismic zones and high wind speed zones. The BMTPC under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation has brought out the flood risk and landslide risk regions. All we need to do is to ensure the planning, design and construction is in adherence to the deal with risk perceptions for a safer built environment.

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The next major aspect is to provide all public buildings safety and durability [life] to withstand the test of time. The first buildings that collapsed in Bhuj during the 2001 earthquake was the District Collector's Office, Police stations, Schools and Hospitals. The important factor for all public buildings is that they should have the highest safety criteria with zero tolerance. The list can include so many buildings serving the citizens to which all look up to and go for various services more so after calamity strikes. If these buildings themselves are brought to ground zero, the whole governance structure will fail. The makeshift hospitals created in tents were the only places to which all wounded and injured citizens could be taken to. It is gratifying and comforting to note that the reconstructed Bhuj hospital located in Seismic Zone 5 can withstand the onslaught of nature with all safety protection being provided for. How do we ensure that all new schools, hospitals, stations, buildings of seats of power are all built with the best resilience?

We witnessed the total damage to Vishakhapatnam Airport after the last killer cyclone less than a year ago. There are many ways by which this could have been avoided, if only the concerned basic provisions for cyclone protection requirements [Anchorage, Bracing, Connection, Detailing and Environment protection] as in NBC would have been complied with.  At least the degree of damages to property and loss of lives could have been minimised.

This is an educative lesson for all the future developments that India would be undertaking in the next two decades under various developmental initiatives. With limited and scarce resources - materials and finances- it is imperative that all these are planned, designed, built and maintained in line with the Building Code provisions.

The bottom-line is to incorporate NBC provisions in local regulations for built environment and enforce it well like Singapore, Seattle without any hesitation for the governments, citizens, builders, customers, bankers and industry.

It is said that Rs 1 crore of disaster mitigation inputs at pre- disaster stages will save Rs 10 crores of post disaster rehabilitation, reconstruction and economic loss costs in post disaster scenario. Pre disaster risk mitigation will cover- Prediction, Preparedness, Prevention, Planning, Protection, Promotion, Publicity, Participation and Partnership.

The Post disaster responses and initiatives include Rescue, Recovery, Relief, Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Repair, Renewal and Retrofitting.

It is time we shifted gears, from the post-disaster response mindset phase to pre-disaster mitigation actions,   so that when disaster strikes  tomorrow , we would have already  provided for a comparatively Safer Habitat today.

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