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Earthquake Safety Measures and Tips


New Construction - Strengthening
Here are some useful tips for new construction and strengthening of existing buildings.
Buildings should be designed by a competent engineer following the 1993 Bangladesh National Building Code. Earthquake resistant design involves the use of steel which is a ductile material. It is not economically possible to design a building to resist the extreme earthquake forces without some damage. The building code allows some damage at preferred locations but prevents building collapse and provides safety to life and property. Steel gives the building necessary properties to resist collapse if they are provided at the correct locations of the structure. Structural elements that provide the earthquake resistance include concrete or masonry shear walls, concrete frame, braced frame, rigid floor system and proper connections between them. Proper detailing of the steel reinforcements at critical locations of the building structure is of great significance. ACI (American Concrete Institute) code gives seismic design detailing requirements for reinforced concrete buildings. Other standard building codes such as IBC2000 may also be consulted.
Strengthening of non-engineered buildings can be done following the IAEE (International Association for Earthquake Engineering) manual on Guidelines for Earthquake Resistant Non-Engineered Construction.
Certain building types are likely to be more susceptible to serious damage or collapse and thus require structural assessment for earthquakes by a competent engineer. Such buildings if not properly designed may need special strengthening measures.
Some typical examples are given below:
- Old URM buildings with cracks in walls and roofs on timber beams.
- URM buildings on 5 walls.
- Multi-storied URM buildings with discontinuous lintel.
- Multi-storied RCF building with open parking space on ground floor. Soft-story action or weak column-strong beam action should be prevented.
- Multistoried buildings with large cantilever projections.
- Multi-storied buildings of irregular (unsymmetrical) shape or having setbacks.
- Buildings having mass eccentricity.
- Buildings with flat plates.
- Buildings having elevated water tanks or swimming pool on roof top.
- Adjacent multi-storied buildings with little gap, hence possibility of pounding.
- Slender high rise buildings.
- Buildings on soft soil (fill material).
When an Earthquake occurs:
During an earthquake, people are injured or killed by falling plaster, collapsing walls, roofs or falling of heavy objects. Collapsing buildings and vibrations can cause short circuits and electric fires. Lighted gas or stoves may also cause fires. This creates panic and confusion.

Do's and Don'ts during an Earthquake:
If you are indoors:
- Stay calm.
- If you are in the ground floor and you can get out very quickly (5-10 secs), rush outside to an open space away from buildings or electric posts. Usually earthquake shaking lasts less than a minute.
- If you do not have time to go outside, stay at selected places inside your buildings which are relatively stronger against earthquakes such as near strong columns or near closely spaced walls in both directions. Stay away from outer verandah, balconies, cantilever projections, outer walls, doors and windows.
- Get under a table or a sturdy cot so that you are not hurt by falling objects from above.
- Stay away from glass windows, almirahs, showcases, and mirrors etc.
- Stay away from falling plaster, bricks or stones.
- Do not rush towards broken or jammed doors or staircase.
If you are outdoors:
- Move to nearby open space.
- Keep away from tall chimneys, buildings, balconies and other projections.
- Be careful, hoardings or lamps in the street may fall on you.
Do's and Don'ts following an Earthquake:
- Switch off all electrical appliances such as refrigerator, TV.
- Turn off the gas.
- A battery operated radio will help you to get important messages.
- Wear shoes to protect your feet.
- Do not crowd around damaged areas or buildings.
- Keep the streets clear for emergency services.
- Do not waste water.
- Use first aid if someone is hurt. Do not move seriously hurt people. Wait for medical help to arrive.
- If possible, assist children, old and disabled persons and the sick.
- Be prepared for more shocks which always follow a major earthquake.

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