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Re: Disaster dilemma

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> Even for safety assessment, only qualified persons should be allowed to
>  inspect the buildings.  It is not limited only to SEs, if the
>  architects, civil or geotech. engineers have the required training and
>  some basic structural courses, may be they can do the job.  The point is
>  that the public has relied on us to provide them prudent professional
>  judgement regarding their safety.

The vast majority of safety assessment inspections in Loma Prieta and
Northridge were NOT performed by volunteers who had building structural design
backgrounds or had  'required training and ...structural courses'.  I know
this first hand - as the CALBO disaster coordinator for the Bay Area when
Northridge hit, I found, scheduled and sent over sixty people on three day
stints of assessment duty.  They performed over a thousand assessments.  Only
a handful of the assessors were engineers.

By far, the greatest public request and need for safety assessments are on
smaller scale wood-frame buildings, mostly single family residences.  That's
not surprising since these comprise 90+ percent of our building stock.  For
such assessments, common sense is much more useful than engineering knowledge.
Some engineer volunteers at both earthquakes tacitly acknowledged this by
objecting to assignments to assess such 'trivial' structures.  They only
wanted to assess engineered structures that would make use of their expertise.
Not for them such penny-ante structures that a carpenter with common sense
could assess as well.  But there weren't enought of these glamorous assigments
to go around, and some of these folks left in a huff and never returned.

To my knowledge, in both Loma Prieta and Northridge, there are no documented
cases where a building that was green-placarded by a non-engineer assessor
subsequently caused injuries to occupants due to aftershocks or other
structural failures and falling debris.  Before we embark on an unwarranted
(and futile) effort to restrict the ranks of safety assessors, and at the risk
of being tiresome about it, I have to again ask those who would have the world
revolve around us engineers, "Where are the bodies?"

Frank Lew, SE
Orinda, CA