Legislative & Political Update

Is the Eastern U.S. Prepared for Future Earthquakes?

Journal: Issue 2 - 2012

At left, Dr. Gilbert Mosqueda, an associate professor of engineering at the University at Buffalo, with President Boland at the February Executive Council meeting. Dr. Mosqueda discussed his research, which focuses on determining seismic danger and appropriate retrofit techniques to older buildings in New York City, which both he and BAC hope will yield adaptable models for other major cities.

The years he spent working with his tools and later as a Local Union officer in the San Francisco Bay area shaped BAC President James Boland's conviction that everyone, regardless of where they live, deserves to benefit from the types of earthquake preparedness policies that have helped save lives and preserve the architectural heritage of communities up and down the West Coast.

The Virginia-based 5.8 earthquake that rattled most of the eastern U.S. last August, says Boland, "was quite a wake-up call for many elected officials in the central and eastern U.S. It was also a call to action for our industry, because what's the first thing you usually see in the news after an earthquake? A pile of bricks. And yet, a significant body of research and real-life examples confirm that when you combine seismic events and masonry, properly reinforced masonry holds up very well during an earthquake. We need to get that message out there."

Joining forces with IMI and noted seismic experts, Boland has met with federal, state and local officials, urging them to conduct a serious review of older, unreinforced buildings now, rather than waiting until consequences are more dire.

President Boland's exchanges with Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley on this topic, for example, led O'Malley to direct state's Department of General Services to create the Task Force on the Seismic Reinforcement of State Buildings to address these very issues. As a result of its deliberations, in which Boland and IMI participated, the Task Force is drawing up plans to inspect all Maryland state buildings for seismic vulnerabilities.

Boland has urged the federal government to take similar action with federally owned or leased buildings and toward that end, will meet in August with senior representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA, which oversees the National Earthquake Reduction Program.

"A robust seismic retrofitting plan is not only good public policy, but a welcome source of work for BAC members. If we do nothing and go into another seismic event unprepared, we know masonry will get a black eye and worse, people will die," says Boland.


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