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Designer’s Guide Continued from page 14

This event was very close to home; I live in earthquake- rattled Southern California, two miles from the ocean and pass an oceanfront nuclear power plant en route to my present jobsite on a regular basis. Ironically, my pro- jects are mostly hospitals in seismic zone 4, so their seis- mic requirements are very strict and often frustrating to deal with. On one hand, events like these punctuate the necessity of critical engineering efforts; on the other, they also mock their futility. Clearly the buildings and structures in Japan were well designed from a seismic standpoint, as there was little damage from the earth- quake itself. But the ensuing tsunami proved much of that effort to be in vain. How can one prepare for disasters such as this? How

do you protect people and property from an event that moves a country the size of Japan 13 feet closer to our own continent? How can you control the effects of Mother Nature creating a rift 186 miles long and 93 miles wide, 15 miles below the ocean floor? Powerless is the only word that comes to mind. And how do we retain our motivation to “protect the planet” when the planet dis- plays its readiness to ruin us? Something tells me that the people of Japan could care less about global warming right now, and I would agree with them. I have said many times that our carbon footprint pales in comparison with one big volcanic eruption, and that fact remains true.

The counterargument to my cynicism is, of course,

that we can’t let setbacks such as the event in Japan destroy our faith in our own purpose, and we have to maintain our vigilance to be the best we can be despite the obstacles, and that counterargument is true. But, as my 401K goes down the tubes, together with the Japanese economy, it is hard to maintain such faith of purpose. Death, taxes, earthquakes and tsunamis — when does it get better? And what will be the next crisis impossible to anticipate? Then again, what will be the next blessing? Perhaps acknowledgment is one of the few blessings within our control. n

Timothy Allinson is a senior professional engineer with

Murray Co., Mechanical Contractors, in Long Beach, Calif. He holds a BSME from Tufts University and an MBA from New York University. He is a professional engi- neer licensed in both mechanical and fire protection engi- neering in various states, and is a LEED accredited pro- fessional. Allinson is a past president of ASPE, both the New York and Orange County Chapters. He can be reached at

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not reflect those of Plumbing Engineer nor its publisher, TMB Publishing.


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