Fire stations could be first to go in major quake

Published: Wednesday | September 19, 2012 Comments 0
Firemen from Rollington Town battle a blaze in Rockfort, Kingston, earlier this year. - FILE
Firemen from Rollington Town battle a blaze in Rockfort, Kingston, earlier this year. - FILE

A NUMBER of fire stations throughout Kingston and St Andrew could be among the first set of buildings to crumble in the event of a major earthquake, according to head of the earthquake unit at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Dr Lyndon Brown.

With this in mind, Brown, who said his statement has been backed by a recent study carried out in conjunction with two engineering students at the University of Technology and UWI, is calling for a more detailed assessment to be done to properly diagnose and address the issue.

"In a major event, these structures may fail and collapse on some of these (fire engines). There might not be any response, because the engines are trapped and fire men probably could be vulnerable to the failure of the buildings as well," Dr Brown said.

The UWI earthquake unit head, who was speaking during the opening day of the Jamaica Institution of Engineers (JIE) conference at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel, New Kingston, on Monday said the study was carried out on seven different fire stations where a number of shortfalls were identified.

"Issues in terms of structural resilience, maintenance issues that add weakness to the fire stations; the whole design. We think there are issues in terms of seismic resilience, based on the design and quality of the buildings. We are suggesting detailed engineering assessment for all fire stations and other critical facilities."

Adding that at least one of the buildings examined dates back to 1944, Dr Brown identified the outdated building code as the main culprit behind the structural vulnerability of these buildings.

"The most recent was built in 1985. Most of these buildings are old, and they are not built to serious seismic codes, because of the age of these buildings. It's a serious issue for us," he told The Gleaner.

The JIE conference, which is being held under the theme 'Engineering Standards for Integrated Regional Development', will come to a close tomorrow.

nedburn.thaffe@gleanerjm.com

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