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Re: Disaster dilemma

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Dear List Members

I read this mailing with intense interest & I have contributed a little on
minor issues such as Kathleen's frame conundrum.  My comments may have
little relevance to your local conditions but I seek favour to wax
moderately eloquent.  It's the British in me, I dear say :-)

I am a "sole practitioner" in Victoria BC Canada and it is with piqued
interest that I see the same professional problems afflicting the "Mecca of
structural engineering" as I am witnessing here in Canada.  I have been
practising here for only about 6 years.  Before that I practised in New
Zealand and Japan.  With any grouping of like-minded individuals there will
always be a mixture of various expertise and it often seems that the more
"mature" the society gets the more this "competency" or "adequacy" problem
raises its head, as knowledge (or method of gaining/retaining that
knowledge) becomes entrenched and attitudes become laboured with that

I certainly welcome this heated (?) debate, not because I personally wish to
root out the incompetent (Lord knows I have my own share of bungles) but to
keep the heads of our members around the world (I presume this unity)
humming with the awareness of the energy that is the creativeness and
adeptness of the engineer.  It is by swimming freely like this in the sea of
our profession that we can interact with others, both our superiors and
inferiors, and increase our knowledge and abilities without fear of
condescension or rebuke of our weaknesses.

As the current Chair for the Vancouver Island Section of the Canadian
Society for Civil Engineering I try to be active by encouraging continued
education and professional development (as espoused by our Society) with
this very competency problem at the forefront of my own activities and

As far as disaster response is concerned our local section has convened a
modest steering committee which has as its mandate the of training people in
the post-disaster assessment of structures.  We do not at this time
discriminate the abilities of individuals, rather we are intent on providing
the information and knowledge that enhances the  person's existing
abilities.  Our immediate group has as its goal the formation of a coherent
structural engineering response resource.  The idea mooted is that teams of
two or three would visit damage sites to carry out the assessments (I
understand a similar procedure was carried out at Northridge?).   The teams
would have at least one structurally competent person (presumed to be a
structural engineer) and the others of varying degrees of ability.  We have
a long way to go to make this practicable but we struggle on.

Despite the profession's high expectation/opinion of its members (the
Architectural Chapters are strong on this point) there are many so-called
non-professional persons out in the industry with very developed skills
that, dare I acknowledge, have put more than one structural engineer in his
or her place.  I recently posted the opinion that it is important that the
central response organization have the withall to either have a list of
potential assessors or to be able to make reasonable judgments on the
capabilities of volunteers who "show up".  This part is not easy I know but
in times of chaos we often have no choice but to to rely on whoever is
willing to offer service.  Our own local attempts at creating a data base of
potential volunteers is our way of addressing the issue of ability on the

Apologies for waffling.  Keep writing.  I remain ever spell-bound.

Thor Tandy  P.Eng
Victoria BC