Building Safety Evaluation module


Just before Christmas, there was a shallow earthquake near the town of Gisborne in New Zealand. This resulted in tens of millions of damage to buildings, much of it was focused in the central business district. This resulted in the need for a number of trained engineers to descend upon Gisborne and undertake post-earthquake building assessments to quickly identify buildings that we safe for entry, that were NOT safe for entry, and those that could be entered under certain conditions.

I'd like to outline some of the framework as a basis for either a new module for Sahana to assist with this process. It would probably fit with other modules such as the Damage Assessment module, and come under a broad umbrella of Disaster Impact Assessment modules. It may be that this refines or builds upon some of the work done in the Damage Assessment module. Note that building safety evaluations are a specific tool for buildings only, and are not used for tracking other forms of impact assessment.

Module Purpose

The purpose of the module should be to:

  • track and verify with a geotemporal database where building damage is concentrated to assist response and recovery decision making.
  • indicate whether access to the building should be enabled, restricted or prevented.
  • provide tools to manage the BSE process (this should probably be handled by other modules in Sahana such as Volunteer Management)

Further Details

The evaluation includes three key steps.

  1. Assessing the building damage and recording details for the database.
  2. Posting of placards noting the severity of damage based on external observation.
  3. If the building is 'red' - posting placards and barrier tape at all entrances, and communicate building status to building owner.

Priority is given to critical facilities. It should be possible to prepopulate these essential facilities in Sahana.

Multi-story buildings need a detailed evaluation if initially assessed by individuals lacking reinforced concrete or structural steel seismic design skills.

It might be useful to eventually include reference details in the module that contain background pictures and information (low priority of course).

Buildings are likely to be involved in many assessments as time passes.

  1. Initial - within hours, assess aggregate damage for affected area, security, and immediate preventative actions (e.g. shoring), driveby assessment
  2. Rapid - within first two weeks, ascertain extent of damage and hazards, and short term occupancy, external assessment only
  3. Detailed - within three weeks, more detailed, greater expertise required
  4. Engineering - longer-term, by owners, focus on insurance and restoration

Posting/Placard System

Three levels. A lot of this is based on the Applied Technology Council's ( ATC-20, ATC-20-2, and ATC-38 Forms and Placards. As always, these systems may need to be customised from country to country depending on the differences in building construction techniques in any given country.

  1. Inspected/Green - no restriction on use or occupancy.
  2. Restricted Use/Yellow - no entry except on essential business.
  3. Unsafe/Red - do not entry or occupy.

Some Sample Roles

Listed below are some of the sample roles associated with this process.

  • Building Safety Evaluation Leader - manager of process, and everyone reports to this role
  • Support Staff - administrative and information support, data entry, co-ordination, call staff to record building details etc
  • Induction/Technical Co-ordinators - specialists and trainers
  • Building Safety Evaluation Inspectors - people that do the inspections


  • Identify critical facilities (Sahana should support the identification and recording of critical facilities)
  • Establishment of a priority list of order that facilities will be inspected (also record in Sahana)
  • Logistics - tracking/management of BSE field kits
  • Forms for collection of info in field (PDA/mobile phone opportunities for Sahana)
  • Information - job/role descriptions
  • Information and logistics - information sheets for public, building owners, digital and ability to produce paper copies (Sahana needs Document Management System so for example can store BSE Module Forms and Documents for printing, easy email access etc.)
  • Possibly store training material as well - perhaps as part of above DMS, but could look at online training as well. E.g. to allow inspectors to quickly review material before heading out into the field.

Other capabilities required

  • Arrange method for tracking teams and individual inspectors for health and safety
  • System should record damage reports via approved forms
  • Track requests for inspection and re-inspection
  • Track allocated tasks to teams and individual inspectors
  • Progress of building assessments by different criteria such as category, suburb etc
  • Produce damage cost estimates, or at least produce statistical information for economist to calculate damage estimates.
  • Capability to export data for import into other systems, e.g. for insurance providers, local government etc
  • Integrated with other Sahana logistics requests and management system - e.g. request for vehicles, resources, catering, accommodation, personal protective equipment etc
  • Pre-entry of existing suitable engineers and other relevant personnel into a experts db.
  • Debrief reports of teams are captured and recorded, and allow recording and assignment of actions
  • Provide call-centre script, and data capture form to capture building inspection requests

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