Fire Prevention & Protection, Technical Rescue

What Collapsed Structures Can Teach Us

Issue 9 and Volume 163.

By Stephen T. Spall and Alexander J. Streichenwein On January 12, 2010, at approximately 4:53 p.m. EST, Haiti's ground shook for the first time in more than 240 years with a magnitude 7.0 earthquake. What followed over the next hours, days, and weeks can be described as predictable and miraculous. Shortly after the earthquake, New York Task Force 1 (NY-TF1) became part of a multinational response that combed the piles of rubble searching for any signs of life. The 82-member team included two structural specialists whose responsibility it was to evaluate building stability. In previous deployments in the United States, we were accustomed to dealing with a well-defined building code. The building construction we encountered in Haiti was unlike anything you might find here. Haiti’s lack of a stringent building code allowed many of the country’s buildings to collapse. In Haiti, as in every country, there is a building code…

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