Nepal lost over 10,000 lives. How many will Delhi lose if earthquake strikes? Is our national disaster response team ready?

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It’s almost a month now to the Nepal Earthquake. India didn’t need invitation; we took the initiative, stepped up to the challenge and offered every possible support on the ground.

But what if Delhi faced a similar catastrophe? Are we ready to tackle the consequences of an earthquake? National Disaster Response Force chief, OP Singh, said: “Delhi is surrounded by buildings, an earthquake can cause a lot of image.” Delhi falls under the seismic zone IV, a critical situation, and unless the capital possesses the technology, infrastructure, human resources and the required equipment to face any disaster, we will continue to live a vulnerable life.

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The first 24 hours are the most critical. Can we get our resources on the ground, up and running, with a day?

The New Delhi-NCR region has witnessed a surge in the vertical growth of buildings. The rapid growth, with little significance given to construction standard, continues to put people at grave risk.

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Is Your Building Safe?

For a building or a home to be earthquake resistant, it is critical to ensure that the soil is stronger than the plinth, which should be tougher than the columns and the columns must be stronger than the beams. If you are not sure, get in touch with a structural engineer and engage him to evaluate the strength of the structure. In case there are issues that point towards the weakness of a structure, you must ensure retrofitting.

Those who stay on rent, or are looking to buy house of their own, must remember a few life-saving pointers:

  1. The structure must have a straightforward geometrical plan, such as rectangular or circular. In case the plan is rectangular in shape, make sure that you steer clear of plans that have extreme longer lengths in one direction. Buildings which have L, U, V, Y or H shape in plan should be avoided.
  2. If a building is more than two-story high, confirm whether the design has been approved as per the relevant National Building codes of India and Indian Standards.
  3. Determine if the building has adequate core shear walls. If the building has stilt parking without walls, ask if relevant ductile designing for columns has been done.
  4. You must establish if the building has any columns that run within floors only and do not run all the way into the ground. Such columns are called floating columns and can reduce the structural capacity during earthquakes.
  5. Take the staircase! It is the ONLY option during an earthquake. The staircase design should be done in a way that it soaks the effect of the quake. Check that the staircase slabs are integrally connected to the frame of the building to prevent collapse.
  6. Exhaustive geo-technical investigations must be conducted before people move in. The builder should be able to provide you with the relevant documents. Ask if adequate pile lengths in rock have been provided to get proper anchorage in the soil. Inquire about soil liquefaction studies and slope stability studies conducted during investigations.
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