What can Australia learn from Taiwan 7.4 magnitude earthquake

Ceiling without seismic restraints in Taiwan Earthquake 2024
Ceiling without seismic restraints in Taiwan Earthquake 2024

As a structural engineer with over two decades of experience, I've witnessed firsthand the devastating impact earthquakes can have on communities and infrastructure. The recent 7.4 magnitude earthquake that struck Taiwan in April 2024 serves as a stark reminder of the importance of seismic design and preparedness. While Australia may not face earthquakes as frequently or intensely as Taiwan, there are valuable lessons we can glean from their approach to seismic design, particularly in relation to compliance with the National Construction Code (NCC) 2022, AS1170.4 standards, and why is it important to have seismic design for the non-structural elements, such as partition walls, ceilings, and services.

Earthquake Taiwan

Taiwan's seismic building codes are among the most rigorous in the world, reflecting the nation's vulnerability to earthquakes. These codes mandate the use of advanced engineering techniques and materials to enhance structural resilience. In Australia, adherence to the NCC 2022 and AS1170.4 standards forms the basis of seismic design. However, continuous evaluation and updating of these standards to align with international best practices and lessons learned from seismic events are crucial. I've accumulated a series of earthquake videos and photos in this blog to demonstrate what will happen if you do not have seismic design in your buildings.

What happen when your CEILING are not design for seismic

Seismic design for ceilings is a critical aspect of overall building resilience. While ceilings may seem like a secondary concern compared to structural elements, they play a crucial role in ensuring occupant safety, functionality, and the integrity of the building as a whole. In Australian Standards, these "secondary elements" are defined as "non-structural elements" which are clearly defined under AS1170.4 section 8. The first video we will look at, clearly shows what happen when your ceiling, including your lightings have not been designed for seismic.

During an earthquake, ceilings are subjected to significant lateral and vertical forces, especially in multi-story buildings. Poorly designed or inadequately supported ceilings can collapse, leading to injuries or fatalities for occupants below. Seismic design ensures that ceilings can withstand these forces, providing a safe environment for building occupants during and after seismic events. A collapsed ceiling, or any collapsed lighting can produce hazardous debris, posing additional risks to occupants and hindering evacuation and rescue efforts. Seismic design aims to minimize the likelihood of ceiling collapse and the generation of debris, thereby reducing the potential for injuries and facilitating post-earthquake operations.

What happen when your SERVICES are not design for seismic

Yes, you may see a lot of umbrellas in your office. Seismic restraints for building services, such as electrical, mechanical, plumbing, and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems, are essential components of earthquake-resistant building design. These restraints serve to secure and protect service lines, equipment, and components during seismic events, thereby mitigating the risk of damage, disruption, and potential hazards. Securing building services with seismic restraints helps prevent equipment displacement, rupture, or detachment during earthquakes. Loose or unsecured service lines and components can pose significant risks to occupants and maintenance personnel, including electrical shocks, gas leaks, and structural damage. Seismic restraints minimize these risks, ensuring the safety of individuals within the building.

In this video, it's obvious that the water pipe or perhaps sprinkler pipes might have been disconnected causing water to flow down into the office and short circuiting the computer and other IT equipment. Now this becomes a health and safety risk, mainly the risk of electrocution if the water flooded and comes in contact with any electrical outlet. This is why seismic restraints for services is important as it helps protect these assets from damage or displacement during earthquakes, reducing repair and replacement costs, minimizing downtime for essential building systems and potentially save lives.

What happen to restaurants and bars under 7.4 magnitude earthquake

For business owners, particularly those in the hospitality industry such as restaurants and bars, the potential damage caused by earthquakes can have significant financial implications. Shaking and vibration can cause items to topple over, break, or become displaced, resulting in the need for repair or replacement. This includes furniture, fixtures, kitchen equipment, and decorative elements. The cost of replacing damaged furnishings and equipment can add up quickly and impact the business's bottom line. Businesses may be forced to temporarily close their doors to assess damage, make repairs, and ensure the safety of the premises. This interruption in operations can result in a significant loss of revenue for restaurants and bars, especially if the closure extends for an extended period. Business interruption insurance may provide some financial relief, but it may not cover the full extent of lost income.

In this video, you can see that all the bottles on the shelves were gone within seconds. I would strongly recommend to design additional shelf protection to prevent the bottles from topple over.

What happen if you live in an APARTMENT under 7.4 magnitude earthquake

For apartment owners, the potential damage caused by earthquakes can result in significant financial losses and disruptions to daily life. The shaking motion of an earthquake can cause large appliances like refrigerators, washing machine to slide across floors, especially if they are not properly secured or anchored. This movement poses risks of damage to the appliance itself and nearby walls, cabinets, or other furnishings. Unsecured refrigerators may also block pathways and hinder evacuation efforts during and after the earthquake. Hanging artwork, framed photographs, or other wall decorations may swing or rotate on their mounts due to the lateral movement induced by the earthquake. Cabinet, wardrobe and cupboard may open or close, and artwork may shift position or fall from walls. This can result in damage to the frames, glass, or artwork itself, as well as potential hazards if broken glass or sharp edges are present. Items stored on open shelves, such as books, decorative objects, or kitchenware, are susceptible to falling during an earthquake. The shaking motion can cause these items to topple over or slide off shelves, potentially causing damage to the items themselves and posing risks to occupants if they are struck by falling objects.

Heavy items or improperly balanced shelves are particularly prone to this type of damage. Wine or whisky bottles stored in cabinets, on countertops, or in other areas may topple over or roll off surfaces due to the shaking induced by the earthquake. Cleaning up broken glass and spilled liquids can be time-consuming and may require careful handling to avoid injuries. Furniture items such as chairs, tables, and cabinets may shift or move across floors during an earthquake, particularly if they are lightweight or not anchored to walls or floors. This movement can cause damage to furniture itself, as well as to flooring, walls, and other nearby objects.

Taiwan Earthquake Bookshelves without Seismic restraints
Taiwan Earthquake Bookshelves without Seismic restraints

What happen when your BOOKSHELVES are not seismically restrained

Bookshelves can pose significant risks during earthquakes if they are not properly secured. Unrestrained bookshelves can tip over or collapse, potentially causing injury to occupants and damage to nearby objects, furnishings, or structural elements. Seismic restraints prevent bookshelves from tipping over, reducing the likelihood of injuries and minimizing damage to property. Most importantly, the bookshelves are typically very heavy and if that collapsed on anyone, it could be life-threatening. I've also written a blog specifically for this, have a read here.

Other images from Taiwan Earthquake April 2024

Ceiling without seismic restraints in Taiwan Earthquake 2024
Ceiling without seismic restraints in Taiwan Earthquake 2024

Aftermath of earthquake
Earthquake when you are driving
Concrete bridge sway during earthquake

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