The Public Works Department (PWD) is all set to make a seismic risk evaluation of the government buildings under its control in Chennai.

The department on Thursday began imparting training to its engineers in seismic risk evaluation of buildings using the Rapid Visual Screening Technique.

Inaugurating the training programme, organised by the Centre for Disaster Mitigation and Management (CDMM), Anna University here on Thursday, Vice-Chancellor P. Mannar Jawahar said that the project involved preparation of programmes which would assess the quality of the buildings from the perspective of overall seismic safety.

The recent earthquake in Haiti has shown that building safety ensures life safety, he said. “Unless we know which building is vulnerable, it is not possible to carry out evacuation during disasters. In addition, it is also necessary to use some of the safe government buildings during calamities,” Mr. Jawahar said.

The conclusions of the screening would be documented in GIS format so that the user departments would be able to take appropriate decisions during emergencies, he said.

Chennai is one of the 38 cities in India, which are vulnerable to earthquake as identified by GOI-UNDP, said S.Rajarathnam, Director of the Centre for Disaster Mitigation and Management, Anna University.

Chennai is categorised as Zone III but the buildings constructed prior to 2001 are designed to resist earthquakes of Zone II category as the revision was made in 2001, he said.

Ahmedabad was also in Zone III before the earthquake in 2001 and Chennai has some degree of similarity, said A. R. Santhakumar, consultant to the Centre. “Moderate earthquake is possible in Chennai,” he said. “The final outcome of the initiative as a whole will be a seismic microzonation of Chennai which will be available for administrators during an emergency at the click of a button,” said Dr.Santhakumar.

Chief Engineer (General) of PWD S. Jayaraman said the new legislative Assembly complex and the upcoming State library complex had incorporated earthquake resistant features. The old government buildings including heritage buildings in the city have to be screened for evaluating the seismic risk, he said.

“A total of 53 senior engineers of the PWD are participating in the training programme,” said K. P. Sathyamurthy, Coordinator of the training programme for PWD. Dean of College of Engineering Guindy M. Sekar participated.