National Demolition Association

NDA: California Earthquakes a Reminder to Strengthen Disaster Response Efforts

The recent swarm of earthquakes in the Los Angeles area is another reminder to local and state governments and agencies responsible for emergency management to include demolition contractors on their disaster response teams, said Jeff Kroeker of Kroeker Inc. in Fresno, CA, and President of the National Demolition Association.

“Following both natural and man-made disasters, demolition contractors have provided invaluable assistance to first responders, helping them react more quickly and skillfully to these events,” Kroeker said. He pointed out the essential work demolition contractors performed following the 2011 magnitude-6.3 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the disastrous 1994 magnitude-6.7 Northridge quake in Southern California that killed dozens of people and caused $25 billion in damage.

“Since Christchurch is New Zealand’s second largest metropolitan area, the experiences of our members working there could provide some valuable lessons to agencies in earthquake-prone areas like Los Angeles, San Francisco and potentially even Seattle,” Kroeker said.

Kroeker and other representatives of the National Demolition Association met last year with experts from the California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA) to identify ways demolition contractors can strengthen the agency’s response to disasters. Cal EMA has declared April Earthquake Preparedness Month.

At present, it’s unlikely that the recent magnitude-5.1 and magnitude-4.4 quakes would be precursors to a much larger quake, according to CalTech seismologist Kate Hutton, quoted in a recent article in USA Today, noting that Southern California gets more quakes than any other part of the contiguous United States. Neither of the two larger quakes was on the famed San Andreas Fault.

The fact that these two earthquakes did not cause extensive damage is just another reminder that communities and agencies should prepare their response now, in advance of a major disaster, Kroeker said. “This is why the National Demolition Association is determined to alert communities now so that they are prepared,” Kroeker said.

“It’s been the stance of the National Demolition Association that contractors should be pre-qualified by local entities and involved in the planning stages so that response can be immediate,” said Michael R. Taylor, CAE, Executive Director of the association.

Among the tasks demolition contractors can handle include site clearance to allow access, urban search and rescue, and the re-establishment of the vital infrastructure. Following all life-saving measures, the contractors handle salvage and recycling and structural dismantlement.

The National Demolition Association has prepared a Disaster Response Manpower and Equipment Survey for local and state governments to use to help them prepare more effectively. The survey is found on the association’s website in the “Disaster Response” section under “Our Industry.” In addition, a video documenting the damage to the city of Christchurch following its 2011 earthquake is also available for viewing.

A directory of demolition contractors and the specialized skills each offers is posted under the “Find” tab on the website.

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