National Demolition Association Asks for Bigger Role in Disaster Response

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Armed with the types of equipment and trained employees needed to respond to an emergency, demolition contractors should be prequalified by local governments and agencies to speed immediate and effective response, group said.

A first responder is on site at the Christchurch Cathedral in New Zealand following the 2011 earthquake.

"Demolition contractors can strengthen government's response to natural and man made disasters..."

Demolition contractors can strengthen government’s response to natural and man-made disasters by getting highly involved during the planning stages for emergencies, not after the tragedies occur, said Jeff Kroeker, President of the National Demolition Association at its annual convention in San Diego this spring.

Kroeker’s comments followed a compelling presentation by three demolition professionals who were at ground zero in Christchurch, New Zealand, following a magnitude-6.3 quake in 2011. Since Christchurch is the country’s second largest metropolitan area, the experiences of the demolition experts and the city’s leadership can provide valuable lessons to others responsible for emergency management, especially in earthquake-prone areas.

John Weber, former president of Iconco/LVI Demolition Services in Oakland, CA – who travelled to Christchurch to handle the disaster response – described the “immense and widespread” damage the quake did to the large city. Mark Loizeaux, president of Controlled Demolition, Inc., one of the world’s leading implosion contractors, explained how government entities should remove dangerous buildings by whatever means is in the public interest to promote both worker and public safety. Peter Ward, president of Ward Demolition Ltd. headquartered in Auckland, NZ, focused on how conventional demolition means were used to take down several damaged structures, including a 26-story hotel.

The presentation showed the damage of the city, comparing the damage to other quakes and earthquake zones here in the United States, including greater Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay area, and potentially even Seattle.

The National Demolition Association is intent on alerting communities in the United States that may be unprepared for a Christchurch-like event, said Michael R. Taylor CAE, Executive Director of the association. To this end, the association has formed a Disaster Response Committee, which has prepared a Disaster Response Manpower and Equipment Survey for local and state governments to use to help them prepare in advance to help save lives, facilitate faster response, and avoid the consequences of delayed decision making. The survey is available on the association website in its new Disaster Response section.

“The U.S. Geological Survey, the science organization of the U.S. government, has predicted with a 99% certainty that there will be a similar magnitude earthquake in California in the next 30 years,” said Taylor. “Our Committee, including those experts who have been working in Christchurch for the last two years dealing with everything from downed utilities, lack of food, housing, and power, hazardous materials disposal, and the safe demolition of damaged structures can share some invaluable lessons with other communities needing assistance with disaster planning.”

The National Demolition Association website has also made available for public viewing the convincing video produced by Ward Demolition Co. showing the damage of the earthquake, as well as the presentation he made at the convention.

About the National Demolition Association

The National Demolition Association is a non-profit trade organization representing approximately 1,000 U.S. and Canadian companies and many international firms that are involved in the demolition process. Membership includes demolition contractors, general contractors, civil engineering firms, and recycling, landfill, and salvage operations. The association’s efforts help members stay abreast of environmental, regulatory and safety matters, keep regulators informed about issues facing the industry, increase public and industry awareness, and provide members with networking opportunities and information on the latest technical advances in equipment and services. The website is http://www.demolitionassociation.com.

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Elva Legere Clements
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