Disaster Preparedness & Response workshop - Day 1

Posted by: Julie Maddox - Murray Engineering, PC on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 12:00:00 am

With a little re-locating due to the government shutdown, the APTi Disaster Preparedness & Response Workshop kicked off Friday morning downtown at the Landmarks Conservancy. Perhaps a more appropriate location for such a workshop could have been Congress in Washington, but that’s a whole different kind of disaster!

Don Friedman started us off by identifying some of the key factors that can often be the greatest challenges when addressing heritage buildings located in dense urban environments but are sometimes overlooked when in the context of disaster response and assessment. Understanding the context of the immediate surrounding becomes the main difference when comparing similar situations in a non-urban setting.

Throughout Day 1 of the workshop, we learned the importance of developing (and updating!) disaster and emergency plans, and many of the strategies that can make your plan successful. Robert Waller introduced a fairly logical approach to risk assessment to make the best use of time and valuable resources, and Jill Gotthelf opened the afternoon by illustrating many of the reasons having a plan in place prior to a disaster is absolutely critical. Rebecca Fifield and Carolyn Riccardelli shared their effective approach to formulating a plan for the inevitable, and yet another great speaker talked about the importance of engaging those who will be responsible for setting those plans in action.

Both in the morning and in the afternoon we were shown some of the ‘lessons learned’ from previous disasters. Michael Devonshire went through much of what went wrong and what went right in response to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and Hurricane Sandy here in New York, and the unique challenge presented when working with necessary, but largely unqualified, volunteers. Luca Nassi presented some of the very successful strategies implemented for disaster response following the earthquake in L’Aquila, Italy, including developing a means of communicating between organizations and providing ways to identify damage and stabilize structures in place using a systematic approach.

With the right tools formulated by organizing first and putting together a plan of action, professionals from multiple disciplines and authorities can mobilize after a disaster-type event and stabilize and assess many damaged buildings quickly, saving and preserving irreplaceable and very significant heritage structures.  Primary lesson of the day: thinking before doing!



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