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Disaster Mitigation Strategies 

by Alexandre Darche

29/05/18

Earthquakes are a tremendous and unpredictable force that cause countless fatalities and expensive infrastructural destruction when they hit. In recent memory, earthquakes have been the culprit of many catastrophes globally. In 2005, 75,000 people were killed in Pakistan by a 7.6 magnitude event. In 2011, an earthquake off the coast in Japan killed 18,500 and triggered a nuclear meltdown at a costal atomic power plant, who's aftermath is still seen in the surrounding area today. While earthquakes are an unavoidable reality, there are certain mitigation strategies that can prevent casualties and destruction.

Educating the public on what to do during a seismic event can be of great help towards protecting the population during an earthquake. The government of British-Columbia, for example, has put forth an earthquake preparedness program due to the province's close proximity to the Cascadia fault-line. On top of this, programs teaching children about the dangers of earthquakes and how to protect themselves have been increasingly implemented in school curriculums to educate individuals at an early age.

Earthquakes can wipe entire cities if they aren't properly prepared (image: Daily Express)

By using sensors, it is possible to know when an earthquake will hit as it propagates from its epicentre. This helps give people time to take cover and keep themselves away from falling objects and crumbling buildings. Governments are investing more and more in emergency alert systems for high-risk areas such as California and New Zealand to push out emergency alerts moments before disaster strikes.

Similarly, companies have begun to develop decentralized earthquake early warning systems. By building a cloud network with many sensors, a global mesh can help detect incoming ground movements. A phone application can then give users location-based notifications when quakes are detected, letting them get prepared and potentially saving lives. With Sensequake’s upcoming sensors, custom sensing platforms like these can be developed, extracting the information needed by the client from the raw sensing data.

While awareness is one approach to earthquake mitigation, the revamping of our cities to make them more resilient in the event of a natural disaster is equally as important. Sensequake's technology has helped push this field forward and make cities safer. By using highly sensitive ambient vibration sensors, 3D models of a structure can be produced by Sensequake's 3D-SAM software. Earthquake ground motions are then applied to the model and the structural reaction can be analyzed for proper renovations to be recommended to the building owner. By implementing these strategies, the structure will less likely fail and collapse.

The models are then animated, showing the structure's reaction to the seismic ground motions (image: Sensequake)

While none of these can completely prevent the consequences of an earthquake, a combination of them can alleviate the number of fatalities and damages caused by them. By investing more money and better education individuals on the importance of these changes, cities can be better prepared when unexpected natural disasters occur.

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