THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The state's disaster management wing has decided to retrofit 'lifeline' buildings like schools, hospitals and public offices, which are frequented by the public, to make them earthquake-resistant. The exercise, which should begin with the identification of priority buildings, is long overdue. Seismic-retrofitting was made mandatory way back in 2007 when National Disaster Management Authority issued guidelines on management of earthquakes.
In 2009, the National Policy on Disaster Management had stated that retrofitting of selected 'lifeline' buildings, as given in the Earthquake Guidelines, was a critical step to be taken towards earthquake mitigation. (Lifeline buildings are those frequently used by public such as schools, hospitals, government offices, and courts.)
An expert technical committee on techno-legal regime constituted by the state government in 2011 had also recommended evaluation of existing lifeline structures for retrofitting. However, the fact is, the state government had not identified and prioritised critical lifeline structures and high priority buildings for structural safety audit and retrofitting so far. As a consequence, it cannot be ensured whether the existing lifeline buildings have adequate earthquake resistant features.
"As a first step, we need to identify the building to be retrofitted," a top disaster management official said. "Government schools and hospitals that function out of colonial structures or old buildings, and also public buildings like secretariat where the people congregate in large numbers, will be given priority," the official added.
A seismic retrofit provides existing structures with more resistance to seismic activity. In buildings, this process typically includes strengthening weak connections found in roof to wall connections, continuity ties, shear walls and the roof diaphragm. "In the past, building codes were less stringent compared to today's standards, thus it is a good idea to inspect buildings constructed prior to 1998, as they were built prior to current structural codes and requirements," the official said.
There is confusion as to which Department should carry out the identification. It is said that the PWD should do it as a routine activity. But the PWD has not done anything on the grounds that it had not received any government instruction related to the identification of lifeline buildings....