In November 2018, powerful earthquakes dramatically affected businesses and infrastructure in Alaska. The pair of shocks, respectively in the magnitude of 7.0 and 5.7, also cut down power supply in a large area, making it utterly impossible for local businesses to carry on as if nothing had happened.
Earthquakes are a destructive force that knocks everything in their tracks. For businesses, the effect can be devastating. Aside from not being able to deliver to your customers on time, the issue affects your processes and survival at a deeper level. More importantly, while in some cases, downtime has not further consequences than revenue loss, some businesses can’t afford to remain inactive in the wake of an earthquake. Hospitals, transportation organizations, and communication media, for instance, are detrimental to the survival of the local population.
Unfortunately, there isn’t yet any technological invention that would allow companies to stop earthquakes altogether. However, while earthquakes can’t be canceled, tech innovations can enable organizations to prevent irreparable damages and carry on supporting their local population in times of need.
Protecting your building from an earthquake
While the Three Little Pigs fable has taught countless generations of children about the safe solidity of bricks – the house the Big Bad Wolf can’t destroy is made of bricks –, the story forgets to consider how traditional building materials react to earthquakes. Indeed, earthquakes send waves through the ground, which shake buildings and infrastructure alike. Bricks, for all their unmovable sturdiness, crack under pressure. That’s precisely why engineers chose to build San Francisco International Airport, in one of the most earthquake-prone areas in California, on ball bearings. Indeed, the giant ball bearings are designed to support the weight of the building and isolate it from the ground in the event of motions. As expert RGP balls warns, ball bearings can not only come in a variety of sizes and performance levels, but similar constructions can be replicated at a smaller scale for machinery and equipment that are also going through high pressures.
In the event of an earthquake, downtime is unavoidable. However, companies that prepare for the logistical slowdown and potential issues by storing essential supplies to manage the aftermath of an earthquake. More importantly, earthquakes rarely happen without any warning. While specialists can’t pinpoint the exact risk in advance, using advanced earthquake sensors, along with a dedicated app can help businesses to protect their employees. The truth is that while you can’t altogether develop a strategy to carry on at all costs, you can make sure to keep your team on-site safe by providing them sufficient warning.
Replacing plasticity by flexible strength
The main issue, when it comes to buildings that are suddenly put in motion during an earthquake, is the fact they are built using materials with a high plasticity level. In other words, because the material can break under pressure, the structure is not earthquake-resilient. Steel is deformed, concrete breaks, etc. However, the creation of smart materials, such as the shape memory alloy, which can return to its original shape after heavy strains, can dramatically improve business and local communities’ survival.
In conclusion, while businesses are not yet all equipped to sustain earthquakes, engineering intelligence, and innovation combine to create not only smart sensors but also smart structures that can isolate movements and return to their shapes. Learning to tame natural disasters has, indeed, become indispensable in the wake of climate change.