Engineers share lessons learned from Japan's earthquake disaster

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by LORI MATSUKAWA / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on March 9, 2012 at 6:54 PM

Updated Friday, Mar 9 at 7:05 PM

SEATTLE -- There's no doubt Japan's eastern coast suffered greatly from last year's earthquake and tsunami. But there were several things that went right.

Western Washington engineers Mark Pierepiekarz and Andrew Taylor returned from an engineering conference this week focusing on the rebuilding in the earthquake and tsunami zone. They shared some of the lessons learned from the disaster.

Buildings that were retrofitted largely survived, and in some cases it was as easy as beams on outside walls.

"This is what we do day in and day out, try to figure out how to make buildings safe and look reasonably good," said Taylor.

In tsunami prone areas, buildings or towers that are tall and strong enough to resist several minutes of shaking are ones people flocked to. Pierepiekarz said they should "be strong enough to resist the impact of the debris and the tsunami which will flood through the area."

Finally -- early warning systems save lives. Shake and tsunami alerts -- which practically everyone in Japan has on their cellphones -- allow people to take action. Even a 30-second warning is enough time to stop trains, close floodgates, duck and cover or run to higher ground. 

The Structural Engineers Association of Washington will offer information on disaster preparedness at the Seattle Center's "Day of Remembrance" event, Sunday beginning at 10 a.m. at Fisher Pavilion. The event is free.

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