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Step 3: Inspect the Structural System from Inside the Building
Has the load-carrying capacity of the structure decreased significantly?

  1. Before entering the building, look to see if anything could fall on you or if the building is in an imminent state of collapse. DO NOT ENTER OBVIOUSLY UNSAFE BUILDINGS.
  2. Ceiling panels may be removed to view the structural system, but any destructive exploration, such as cutting a hole in the wall, must be done only when authorized by the school district.
  3. Look in stairwells, basements, mechanical rooms and other exposed areas to view the structural system (see Step 1 B. for guidance).
  4. Examine the vertical load-carrying system. Look for situations in which (1) a post may show signs of damage; (2) the floor or roof beams have begun to pull away from their supports; or (3) the slab or beam system has been damaged.
  5. Examine the lateral load-carrying system. Any new offset such that the walls at any level are out-of-plumb with the wall below means some structural damage has been sustained. Look for situations in which a diagonal brace has buckled, bowed or cracked, or where walls have bowed or cracked.
  6. Inspect the basement for fractures and uneven settlement. Also inspect basement floors and exterior walls for cracks and bulges.
  7. Examine every floor, including basement, roof and penthouse.
  8. Gypsum wallboard (sheetrock) and painted plywood walls show signs of distress if the nailheads show, generally at the edge of the wall.
  9. If just a few nailheads show, usually the strength of the wall has not decreased. However, if many nailheads show or the shank of the nail is visible, the strength of the wall has decreased significantly.

Step 4: Inspect for Nonstructural Hazards

  1. Look inside the building for damage to nonstructural elements such as ceilings, partitions, light fixtures, roof top tanks and other interior elements. Damage to these nonstructural elements could either indicate structural damage, or pose a threat to occupants.

Step 5: Inspect for Other Hazards

  1. If damage to elevators is suspected, or if the elevators will not operate (seismic switch has been tripped), they should not be restarted without first being inspected by a qualified elevator inspector.
  2. Look for spills or leaks in areas of stored chemicals or other hazardous materials. DO NOT attempt to handle these materials yourself. Restrict building or area use accordingly.
  3. If there is damage to fire protection and detection equipment, it may be necessary to restrict building use. Notify the local fire department. Look for damage to sprinkler systems, piping and smoke detection components of signal systems.
  4. Inspect the stairs to verify they are stable, and inspect exits for jammed doors and obstructions.

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School Earthquake Preparedness Guide - State of Arkansas
Arkansas Office of Emergency Services, 1993