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Will Your Building Be Vulnerable during an Earthquake?

Will Your Building Be Vulnerable during an Earthquake?

While many commercial property owners know that walls and roofs may need to be strengthened to withstand a powerful earthquake, some property owners forget to consider other vulnerabilities.  A seismic retrofit inspection will determine other areas of the building that need attention as well.  When considering earthquakes and the safety of a commercial building, there are several points to keep in mind, including the following:

  • Most buildings designed and built more than thirty years ago were not constructed using the most current state and local building codes and thus will benefit from a seismic retrofit.
  • Due to the construction methods used for un-reinforced masonry buildings, these properties often experience cataclysmic damage when a violent temblor occurs.
  • In many cases, most of the earthquake damages occur after the shaking and rolling have ended.
  • Damage that is caused by an earthquake is often preventable.

Earthquake damage is not limited to the destruction of walls or the collapsing of roofs.  The strength of the water pipes located in commercial properties is often tested during an earthquake.  Because water pipes typically have no problems, they are often not thought of as an area of risk. Water pipes that are not properly secured, however, are actually a big risk.  When the ground starts to rock and roll, pipes often break causing flooding throughout the building.  Not only is water damage a concern, there is always the possibility that the heavy, overhead piping could become a falling hazard.  Falling pipes may cause further property damage and more critically, they may cause injury to those who work or live in the building. When a commercial building is going through an initial inspection for a seismic retrofit, all water pipe anchoring and bracing should be inspected.

Of course, there is more to a seismic retrofit inspection than just verifying the security of the sprinkler system and the water piping. A seismic retrofit inspection should also include evaluating the following to make sure they are properly in place to make sure the building is safe and secure:

  • Continuity ties and roof-to-wall connectors in un-reinforced masonry properties
  • Roof-to-wall anchoring
  • Additional shear walls
  • Steel bracing frames on concrete tilt-up walls
  • Bracing for hanging equipment and other heavy equipment, along with bracing for the water sprinkler system and pipes
  • Drag lines
  • Supply line and storage tank protection

Damage associated with a fire sprinkler system can take place anywhere along the water pipelines, depending on where they are located and how well they have been secured.  Breakage can occur at any point in the sprinkler system, including along vertical pipes running between floors or pipes running along a ceiling. The sheer weight of the pipes often causes the hangers to break apart.  As part of the evaluation process, joints and couplings should be inspected to be sure everything is completely anchored.

Fire safety systems are installed in commercial buildings to save lives.  They are installed based on very specific codes and regulations that are in place over and above regular plumbing pipe installation codes.  These extra fire sprinkler codes are related to location, strength and spacing.  While most sprinkler systems are never used, they are required to be installed and in working order at all times in commercial buildings.  Devastating events can happen at any time, therefore commercial property owners must plan for the worst scenario.  During a seismic retrofit, bracing and anchoring for sprinkler systems should be strengthened, as necessary.  In order to do so, duct work changes may be required, as well as changes in the location of the sprinkler pipes.  Such changes are often needed to decrease safety risks.

Saunders Commercial Seismic Retrofit is available to conduct seismic inspections for commercial properties located throughout the state of California, including in the San Bernadino area. Their experienced team will determine any repairs that are needed to strengthen a commercial building, including fire system anchorage and bracing. If you are interested in more information regarding the safety and security of your commercial property, be sure to call the professional team at Saunders Commercial Seismic Retrofit today.

Southern California Office

(949) 646-0034

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