The Role We Play in Earthquake Preparedness

The Role We Play in Earthquake Preparedness

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Earthquake and Wind Programs Branch Civil Engineer Pataya Scott, PhD shares more about the work FEMA does to improve building codes and standards.  The Role We (FEMA) Play in Earthquake Preparedness is inspiringly here for all those in the MENA region concerned by a possible repeat of the same recent disastrous events.

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The Role We Play in Earthquake Preparedness

 

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After the devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria last month, you may have wondered: in a similar event, what would have happened to buildings in the United States?

For more than 40 years, FEMA has worked with our partners to improve building codes and standards, as well as advance their adoption and enforcement across the nation. While these improvements are significant, there are still older buildings in our country that are at risk of collapse during an earthquake.

More work is needed to avoid the kind of regional disaster Turkey and Syria are experiencing after the magnitude 7.8 and 7.5 earthquakes. Many existing buildings in the United States are likely to perform poorly in earthquakes because they are built to outdated standards or, in some cases, no standards at all. These buildings remain vulnerable to collapse in seismic regions like Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, California, Hawaii, the Rocky Mountains, the New Madrid region, South Carolina, the Eastern United States, Puerto Rico and Oklahoma.

To explore how these areas would be affected during a major earthquake event, you can use FEMA’s Hazus Loss Library. This tool demonstrates the cost of life and severity of damage that would happen in earthquake events similar to those in Turkey and Syria. While the numbers presented in these scenarios might be less than what those regions endured, they still represent a significant risk and enforce the need for the nation to improve its built environment.

Modern codes and standards are only effective if they are properly enforced. Turkey is known for having a current building code, similar to many parts of the United States, but implementation has historically been an issue. Regional differences in code adoption and enforcement mean that some communities may not benefit from the protection offered by stronger codes. Ongoing advocacy for both code adoption and enforcement is still needed.

FEMA is always focused on improvements. We look at the latest lessons-learned information, new science and technology. We also collaborate with many government sectors to address and mitigate a community’s risk with existing buildings. This work includes improved methods for risk assessment, prioritization and retrofit, as well as support for developing and adopting effective mitigation policies and practices, which could include replacing with new buildings.

New attention on post-disaster response and recovery has suggested that emphasis on building collapse prevention may not be enough. Disaster-resilient communities need buildings that can be occupied following a hazard event and provide functions and services necessary for meeting essential community needs and maintaining economic vitality. This means buildings that not only stand strong after an earthquake but still allow residents to safely use things like running water and electricity.

FEMA’s National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program is focused on activities that support improved community resilience. Those efforts are outlined in a recent report to Congress (NIST-FEMA Special Publication FEMA P-2090/NIST SP-1254, Recommended Options for Improving the Built Environment for Post-Earthquake Reoccupancy and Functional Recovery Time) and are only just beginning.

There are many actions you can take on a personal level to improve your own community’s earthquake resilience.

  • Practice Safety Drills. Since earthquakes can happen without notice or warning, be prepared by practicing Drop, Cover, and Hold On with family and coworkers.
  • Make an Emergency Plan. Create a family emergency communications plan that has an out-of-state contact. Plan where to meet if you get separated. Make a supply kit that includes enough non-perishable food, water and medications for several days, a flashlight, a fire extinguisher and a whistle. Prepare for pets and service animals, too.
  • Protect Your Home. Secure heavy items in your home like bookcases, refrigerators, water heaters, televisions and objects that hang on walls. Also consider obtaining an earthquake insurance policy since a standard homeowner’s insurance policy does not cover earthquake damage.
  • Receive emergency alerts and warnings by downloading the recently updated FEMA App.
  • Visit Ready.gov or Listo.gov today and practice making an earthquake plan with your families.

For more information on how to protect your community from earthquakes, visit www.fema.gov/emergency-managers/risk-management/earthquake.

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Why we need to design buildings for wildlife as well as people

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Animal architecture: why we need to design buildings for wildlife as well as people

By Paul Dobraszczyk, UCL

How did early humans first learn to build? It’s quite possible that it was by observing animals that had already mastered the art. Indeed, when you look at the animal world many birds, insects and mammals are excellent architects and builders.

Beavers are quite literally landscape engineers – they’re being reintroduced in the UK to help fight against the increased incidence and severity of flooding caused by climate change.

Social insects like bees, wasps, ants and termites construct what many have described as the animal equivalents of human cities.

Spiders and silkworms have long been regarded as expert builders in the weaving of their silk webs. While other creatures like foxes, moles and badgers build by excavating the ground.

Then there are the animals that carry their homes on their backs – the shells of snails and turtles, for example, are both extensions of and protection for their vulnerable soft bodies.

Beyond human

We might admire and even imitate animal architecture, but when it comes to human-designed buildings, we are usually extremely selective about what kinds of creatures we allow in.

In general, animals are only ever designed for when they are of use to humans – whether as livestock, domestic pets, spectacles to consume in zoos and aquariums, or objects of scientific manipulation in laboratories.

If animals can’t be put to use, they’re usually ignored. And if those animals take it upon themselves to inhabit buildings, they’re invariably regarded as pests and dealt with accordingly.

In my new book, Animal Architecture: Beasts, Buildings and Us, I look at why we should build for animals as well as people. Indeed, wildlife is all around us and is already living in or around most of our homes, anyway.

Examples in the book include spiders spinning their webs in the dark corners of rooms. Swallows finding ideal purchase on brick walls for their saliva and mud-based nest cups. Rats making their homes in the subterranean spaces of the city. And cats and dogs appropriating our furniture and fittings as their own places of rest.

There’s hardly any part of the human-built environment that can’t be inhabited or changed by insects, animals and birds. It’s easy enough to understand how this works in relation to animals that are classed as pets. It’s generally taken for granted that pet owners know how to care for their animals. But it’s much harder to care for animals that are mostly regarded as unwelcome intruders into buildings.

Animal estates

A powerful example of the potential breadth of such interspecies awareness is artist Fritz Haeg’s Animal Estates project, which ran from 2008 until 2013. In nine different cities, Haeg organised events to encourage participation in creating structures that would be attractive to a variety of native species, including bats, birds and insects.

As well as building structures for animals to inhabit, the project also hosted events designed to stimulate interest and knowledge about native animals (and, in many cases, to encourage urban dwellers to make structures themselves). This holistic approach to ecological design aimed to foster more care for animals in cities – animals that would probably otherwise go unnoticed.

Other wildlife-inspired architectural projects include the non-profit organisation The Expanded Environment, which provides helpful online resources on how to care for a much wider range of animals in relation to architecture – most notably in their collaborative design proposals and annual competitions for novel types of animal design.

The material on their website expands ideas about what might be considered appropriate animals for designers to work with as “clients”. Insects appear alongside dogs and cats, birds with lizards and bats with oysters.

Housing the non-human

A contemporary reconstruction of Charles A. Campbell’s Municipal Bat House (1914), near Comfort, Texas, 2009.
Wikimedia Commons, Larry D. Moore/cc-by-sa 4.0 International, CC BY-SA

Ultimately thinking beyond just people is important because all lifeforms create their own environments – and what humans generally call “the environment” is in reality the sum of these creations. Why then does the idea that humans live outside of the environment persist so strongly?

Perhaps, as any therapist will likely tell you, losing a fantasy is always much harder than losing a reality. Yet, as is all too obvious, the persistence of the fantasy of human exceptionalism is now endangering all life on the planet.

It is humans, and humans alone, who dominate every corner of the environment, while at the same time asserting they are actually removed from that environment. If my book has one core aim, it is to encourage readers to think beyond humans in the way we imagine, design and live in our buildings and cities.

Paul Dobraszczyk, Lecturer in Architecture, UCL

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

What if a patient unplugged the Oxygen Tube

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The above-featured image is about the ocean producing 50% of carbon dioxide produced by humans, buffering the impacts of global warming, and is the main source of protein for a billion people around the world. Credit: IPS

What if a patient unplugged the Oxygen Tube that Keeps them Alive

By Baher Kamal

MADRID, Jun 7 2022 (IPS– Imagine a patient connected to a vital oxygen device to keep him or her breathing, thus alive. Then, imagine what would happen if this patient unplugged it. This is exactly what humans have been doing with the source of at least 50% of the whole Planet’s oxygen: the oceans.

But oceans do not only provide half of all the oxygen needed. They also absorb about 30% of carbon dioxide produced by humans, buffering the impacts of global warming while alleviating its consequences on human health and that of all natural resources.

The carbon — and heat– sink

The world’s oceans capture 90% of the additional heat generated from those emissions.

In short, they are not just ‘the lungs of the planet’ but also its largest carbon sink.

The ocean is the main source of protein for more than a billion people around the world.

And over three billion people rely on the ocean for their livelihoods, the vast majority in developing countries.

Oceans also serve as the foundation for much of the world’s economy, supporting sectors from tourism to fisheries to international shipping.

Nevertheless…

Despite being the life source that supports humanity’s sustenance and that of every other organism on Earth, oceans are facing unprecedented real threats as a result of human activity.

While providing the above facts, this year’s World Oceans Day (8 June) warns about some of the major damages caused by human activities, which devastate this source of life and livelihood.

This report is also based on data from several specialised organisations, such as the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), among others, as well as a number of global conservation bodies, including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Too many causes. And a major one

Oceans as dumping sites: There are several major threats leading to suffocating the world’s lungs.

Such is the case –for example, of overfishing, illegal fishing and ghost fishing–, human activities have been transforming world’s oceans into a giant dumping site: untreated wastewater; poisonous chemicals; electronic waste; oil spills, petrol leaks, oil refineries near rivers and coastal areas, ballast waters, invasive species, and a very long etcetera.

Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah/IPS

Plastic

Of all these, plastic appears as one of the major sources of harm to oceans. See the following data:

As much as 75 to 199 million tons of plastic are currently found in our oceans.

Unless the world changes the way how to produce, use and dispose of plastic, the amount of plastic waste entering aquatic ecosystems could nearly triple from 9-14 million tonnes per year in 2016 to a projected 23-37 million tonnes per year by 2040.

How does it get there? A lot of it comes from the world’s rivers, which serve as direct conduits of trash into lakes and the ocean.

In fact, around 1.000 rivers are accountable for nearly 80% of global annual riverine plastic emissions into the ocean, which range between 0.8 and 2.7 million tons per year, with small urban rivers amongst the most polluting.

Plastic everywhere: Wherever you look and whatever you see, buy and use, there is plastic: food wrappers, plastic bottles, plastic bottle caps, plastic grocery bags, plastic straws, stirrers, cosmetics, lunch boxes, ballpoints, and thousands of other products.

Cigarette butts: Then you have the case of cigarette butts, whose filters contain tiny plastic fibres, being the most common type of plastic waste found in the environment.

Today, the world produces about 400 million tons of plastic waste … every year.

Plastic addiction: Such human dependence on plastic has been steadily increasing. Since the 1970s, the rate of plastic production has grown faster than that of any other material. If historic growth trends continue, global production of primary plastic is forecasted to reach 1.100 million tonnes by 2050.

“Our seas are choking with plastic waste, which can be found from the remotest atolls to the deepest ocean trenches,” reminds the United Nations chief António Guterres.

Fossil fuel: As importantly, some 98% of single-use plastic products are produced from fossil fuel, or “virgin” feedstock. The level of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production, use and disposal of conventional fossil fuel-based plastics is forecast to grow to 19% of the global carbon budget by 2040.

Mare Nostrum: This small, semi-closed sea –the Mediterranean is considered as one of the most affected regional seas by marine litter.

In fact, the annual plastic leakage is estimated at 229.000 tons, 94% of which consist of macroplastics. Plastics constitute around 95% of waste in the open sea, both on the seabed and on beaches across the Mediterranean.

COVID-19: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) February 2022 publication: Global Plastics Outlook reports that the increase in the use of protective personal equipment and single-use plastics has exacerbated plastic littering on land and in marine environments, with negative environmental consequences.

Rivers: The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reports that, flowing through America’s heartland, the Mississippi River drains 40% of the continental United States – creating a conduit for litter to reach the Gulf of Mexico, and ultimately, the ocean.

Data collected through the Mississippi River Plastic Pollution Initiative shows that more than 74 per cent of the litter catalogued in pilot sites along the river is plastic.

Electronic waste: should all this not be enough, please also know that the world produces 50 million tons of e-waste, a portion of it ends up in the ocean.

Ghost fishing

According to an October 2020 report released by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and authored by Alexander Nicolas, more than 12 million tons of plastic end up in the world’s seas every year.

Fishing gear accounts for roughly 10% of that debris: between 500.000 to 1 million tons of fishing gear are discarded or lost in the ocean every year. Discarded nets, lines, and ropes now make up about 46% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Alexander Nicolas explains.

This marine plastic has a name: ghost fishing gear.

“Ghost fishing gear includes any abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded fishing gear, much of which often goes unseen.

“Ghost fishing gear is the deadliest form of marine plastic as it un-selectively catches wildlife, entangling marine mammals, seabirds, sea turtles, and sharks, subjecting them to a slow and painful death through exhaustion and suffocation. Ghost fishing gear also damages critical marine habitats such as coral reefs.”

Overfishing

Overfishing is yet another major damage caused to the world’s oceans threatening the stability of fish stocks; nutrient pollution is contributing to the creation of “dead zones.”

Currently, 90% of big fish populations have been depleted, as humans are taking more from the ocean than can be replenished.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing: A fugitive activity that further adds to the abusive overfishing, causing the depletion of 11–26 million tons of fish… each year.

IPS article The Big Theft of the Fish provides extensive information about these two major activities that deplete the oceans vital natural resources.

Untreated wastewater is another example of the damage made by humans to the oceans.

It has been reported that around 80% of the world’s wastewater is discharged without treatment, a big portion of it ends up in the oceans.

The oceans in a conference

All the above facts –and many more– are on the agenda of the United Nations Ocean Conference 2022 (27 June- 1 July), organised in Lisbon and co-hosted by the Governments of Kenya and Portugal.

According to its organisers, the Conference seeks to propel much needed science-based innovative solutions aimed at starting a new chapter of global ocean action. Cross your fingers!

 

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