Modern construction techniques are constantly changing and science is making ever more progress into understanding the impacts of earthquakes on man-made structures. In the past decades there have been devastating events around the world, from Chile to China and Haiti to Italy.
In the US, however, there hasn’t been a huge event in quite a while. The last major event was in 1992 with a magnitude of 7.3. While construction codes have changed since then there are still countless buildings on the West Coast which are prone to more damage than initially expected.
Even minor tremors which don’t even make the news reports anymore can over time cause damage especially to steel frame structures. The steel itself is usually not the issue; it is more the welds that were put in place. A lot of buildings constructed before 1995 have the potential to weaken during a quake, or may have already cracked from numerous minor events.
This makes this a huge career opportunity for young people especially around California. The latest welding apprenticeship programs, especially on the West Coast, cover steel construction and welding fault detection with earthquake damage in mind. These types of welders are becoming ever more in demand with some huge paydays available.
Apprentices usually join their sponsoring union after successful completion and there are significant benefits of joining a welding union to the welder. The training and union member ship will show to prospective employers that you are fully capable working on earthquake damage detection.
Structural safety concerns are constantly evolving and people are understandably concerned about their personal safety at home and at work. Recent Hollywood movies are also causing people to pay more attention, which is probably not a bad thing as long as there is no panic about this. I certainly enjoyed the movie a lot.
Structural safety information is readily available and the SEAOC can help private citizens, landlords and businesses determine their level of risk. If you are at all concerned about a building you live in or own then the best thing to do is to engage a structural engineer. This will not be cheap, but it will immediately give you a report on what level of protection you have in the event of an earthquake.
With the engineers report in hand you can then decide on whether you accept any risks highlighted or whether you hire a building contractor to make changes and improvements that will increase safety. What those changes are will very much depend on the building. In many cases wooden structures are the most resistant to damage as the wood is flexible, as opposed to concrete and brick structures.
Steel structures can be a huge advantage; however, as mentioned above, there can be some significant flaws that may require some retrofitting work to be carried out. This will need to be assessed by an structural and welding engineer/technician. Most common steel frame structures are easier to upgrade than most people think, and certainly easier than some of the remaining brick built structures.