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UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, Denine Hagen (858) 534-2920
S.D. Fire and Life Services, Leslie Halik (619) 573-1495

UC San Diego Test Building to be Used for Earthquake Search and Rescue Training

Photo opportunity: Reporters may photograph building being disassembled and moved on Monday and Tuesday.

As regions in Turkey, Greece, and Taiwan struggle to recover from recent earthquakes, UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering and the San Diego Fire and Life Safety Services are working together to prepare for the worst. The School has made available its five-story, 40 foot-tall test building to San Diego County’s Urban Search and Rescue Task Force to be used in earthquake rescue training.

The UC San Diego test building is the largest structural model ever constructed in the U.S. Researchers with the Department of Structural Engineering recently subjected the building to a series of simulated earthquakes to validate new precast concrete construction systems for earthquake-prone regions. The building performed well in the tests and suffered only minor damage. The faculty and research staff will now report on their findings, which will be used to recommend new design codes for office buildings, apartment towers and other tall structures in earthquake prone regions.

“We are pleased that our research program will now have a double benefit for the people of San Diego, both to help construct even safer buildings and to help prepare for all-important rescue efforts,” said Professor Frieder Seible, Chair of the Structural Engineering Department at UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering.

The Urban Search and Rescue Task Force of San Diego County is comprised of 186 volunteers who are on call to respond to rescue people trapped in collapsed structures or confined spaces. For example, the task force assisted in rescue operations after the Northridge Earthquake and the Oklahoma City bombing. The Task Force is sponsored by San Diego Fire and Life Safety Services (City of San Diego) and has 16 participating agencies from throughout the County of San Diego.

The building is being relocated to the drill ground of the Public Safety Regional Training Institute at the Naval Training Center. It will be used to run earthquake rescue drills and other training exercises.

“Our task force is on call to respond at a moment’s notice to the most challenging kinds of rescue situations,” said Battalion Chief Rich Leap. “We’ve tried to provide our teams of specialists with the right tools for the job like canine search teams, listening devices, heat sensing devices, etc. Training is critical to successful rescues so we are grateful to UC San Diego for providing this concrete building for prototype training and rescue simulations.”

The building weighs in at 500 tons and is made up of 91 separate precast concrete components, so relocation is a major undertaking. Workers began disassembling the building last week, and it is expected that the moving process will continue through this week. Several companies are contributing their services for free or at cost. Spancrete of California is providing the tractor trailers needed to carry the building pieces from UC San Diego to the Naval Training Center. A.T. Curd Structures is tearing the building down at cost and Steve Newkirk of A.T. Curd is donating his time. Cement Cutting of San Diego is providing the saw cutting of concrete and steel at a reduced rate.

The UC San Diego five-story building test was the culmination of a 10-year multi-university research program supported by the National Science Foundation, the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute, and the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Manufacturers Association of California.

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