Coming Soon: Guide on Evaluating Earthquake-Damaged Equipment

Coming Soon: Guide on Evaluating Earthquake-Damaged Equipment

This piece was originally published in the May 2017 issue of electroindustry.

Mike Stone, West Coast Field Representative, NEMA

Long a leader in helping communities recover from the effects of natural disasters such as floods and hurricanes, NEMA strives to make electrical safety a top priority during the reconstruction of flooded communities.

NEMA’s Guide to Evaluating Water-Damaged Electrical Equipment, which was first published in the 1990s and revised most recently in 2016, has been widely distributed by NEMA field representatives during and after significant flood events such as Hurricane Katrina and Super Storm Sandy. This document is used in flood and storm recovery efforts nationwide.

A companion document, Guide to Evaluating Fire- and Heat-Damaged Electrical Equipment, published in 2013, offers guidance to equipment damaged in structural and wildland fires. In keeping with efforts to help communities be as resilient as possible after natural disasters, NEMA is developing the third document in the series: Guide to Evaluating Earthquake-Damaged Electrical Equipment.

While most of us think of earthquakes as only happening on the West Coast or in Alaska and Hawaii, many areas of the country are vulnerable to seismic damage.

Take, for example, the 2011 East Coast 5.8 magnitude earthquake that did as much as $300 million worth of damage, according to one estimate, including $34 million for the Washington National Cathedral alone. In Missouri, the New Madrid Fault Line ruptured in 1811 with an estimated 7.4 magnitude quake. Seismologists estimate a 25 to 40 percent chance, in a 50-year span, of another 6.0 magnitude or greater earthquake in the same area.

Inspectors, engineers, and others will need clear guidance on appraising damage to electrical equipment after a major earthquake. The reliability and usability of electrical systems is vital to the resilience of communities and their ability to function after a disaster. While most inspectors are trained to recognize structural damage, electrical equipment damage may not be as apparent to personnel who do not have electrical experience.

The goal of this new guide is to give those doing damage assessment a valuable tool to use when evaluating damage and determining whether an electrical system can be safely energized.

A committee of subject matter experts from NEMA member companies, which I coordinated, began working on this document in late 2016. A rough draft has been completed and is undergoing edits by the committee. The resulting draft will be reviewed and ultimately approved by the NEMA Codes and Standards Committee, with likely publication in the fall of 2017.

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