UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering University of California San Diego
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Protecting the Civil Infrastructure Against Disasters

It was 10 years ago, on April 19, 1995 , when a truck bomb explosion outside the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City led to progressive collapse of the building and the tragic death of 168 people. This unfortunate incident triggered the start of research here at the Jacobs School on how to harden the civil infrastructure against terrorist bomb threats.

We were approached by the federal government to study whether technologies to protect structures from earthquakes might also protect against blast loads since both impart horizontal loads on structures. Our subsequent field tests have begun to verify that this is indeed the case, and that off-the-shelf technologies may be used to quickly and efficiently protect the highest-risk structures. But there is much work to be done.

UCSD is in a unique position to address the issue of blast mitigation. The structural engineering program at UCSD since its beginning has been focused on protecting the civil infrastructure from disaster, namely the threat of earthquakes. Indeed 12 of the Jacobs School 's 16 structural engineering professors are experts in earthquake engineering. With the founding of the Charles Lee Powell Structural Research Laboratories in 1985, UCSD became established as a world leader in large and full-scale testing of structures. And following the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, we worked closely with state and federal government agencies and industry partners so that technologies developed and verified to protect bridges from earthquakes were implemented throughout the state of California and across the nation.

We were motivated then as now by the goal of protecting people and property against the threat of disaster. Our new Englekirk Structural Engineering Center once again puts us in that unique position of having both the expertise and the world-class engineering facilities to lead the nation in blast mitigation research. Together with the UCSD-NEES outdoor shake table, we can now expand our studies into multi-hazards mitigation.

Strong support from the government, friends such as Robertand Natalie Englekirk and the board of the Charles Lee Powell Foundation, and from many of our colleagues in industry will continue to be critical to our success. We will work closely with our partners so that the progress we make in the laboratory can be quickly transferred to practice.

Frieder Seible