Surviving Nature's Forces

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by Yumei Wang,
Erik Vanmarcke,

Abstract: This white paper considers that civil engineers were much involved in building the infrastructure of the communities that were destroyed. We question some of the basic tenets of the role of civil engineers: Have they built sufficiently safe communities, and are they adequately and responsibly protecting the public from natural disasters? In observing the scale of the tsunami disaster, it seems obvious that the status quo is not good enough. A better balance needs to be achieved between potential losses, in human and economic terms, from natural disasters and expenditures on infrastructure protection. Civil engineering professionals are most knowledgeable and best positioned to play a leadership role in realizing this goal of optimally balanced risk. Do civil engineers need a new road map that maintains traditional strengths but redefines and amplifies their role? In this paper, we ask some questions intended to provoke discussion about how to protect our communities and, in this context, expand and improve the quality of services that civil engineers provide.

Subject Headings: Infrastructure | Safety | Tsunamis | Geohazards | Human factors | Economic factors | Engineering profession |


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