GEOSCIENCE Australia is surveying buildings in York in a bid to reduce the town’s vulnerability to an earthquake by retrofitting its national heritage treasures.
York is in one of the most seismically- active areas of Australia.
The York Town Hall, built in 1911, is among the heritage- listed buildings at risk of obliteration in an earthquake.
Just 43km away, an earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter magnitude scale destroyed the town of Meckering in 1968.
York is the first town site in the country selected for the earthquake mitigation study.
Geoscience Australia structur- al engineer Mark Edwards said the team began taking photographs of buildings in Avon Terrace on Monday, using vehicle-mounted digital cameras to record the architectural features of the buildings.
The visual record will focus on the number of storeys, chimneys, parapets and primary construction materials.
Mr Edwards said the team was using technology to ‘ virtually apply’ various retrofits to York historical buildings to understand what modifications were most effective in reducing the damage from a large earthquake.
“The hazard has been ignored until quite recently… and we can’t forecast an earthquake,” he said.
Mr Edwards said earthquake hazard was only fully recognised for Australian building design in the early ‘ 90s after the Newcastle earthquake in 1989.
He said knowledge of the most effective retrofit measures for older masonry buildings would strengthen buildings and result in more resilient communities.
“The research will not only benefit the Shire of York but also other small Australian towns with similar structures, such as Northam and Toodyay,” he said.
Seismic activity is monitored across the country and a seismic activity station is based at Mundaring Weir.
Mr Edwards said York was at moderate risk of an earthquake.
A magnitude scale 4 earthquake would alert emergency services. Mr Edwards said if there was an earthquake, people should take cover under a table and hold on to it.
From page 1 “Do not run out of a building where there is risk of falling masonry and do not stand in a doorway; stay put until the shaking stops,” he said.
Geoscience Australia is collaborating with the Shire of York, the WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services and the University of Adelaide on the project.
Other aspects of the project involve a survey of community businesses in York to assess the potential economic disruption likely to result from a large earthquake, an assessment of the losses and the benefits of a staged mitigation.
Another aim is to develop scenarios to help the Department of Fire and Emergency Services and the Shire of York with emergency management planning.
The project forms part of a Bushfire and Natural Hazards Collaborative Research Centre project.
Work on the project will continue in March and April, with small teams from Geoscience Australia and the University of Adelaide gathering information on York’s older masonry buildings using hand- held computers, digital cameras and the vehicle mounted camera system.
A report will be provided to York council later this year.
York Town Hall is among the buildings at risk.