With many of the immediate threats and concerns of Hurricane Katrina addressed, measures are being taken to deal with ongoing consequences of the tragedy. One such issue is building structure examination.

J. Dan Dolan, WSU professor of civil and environmental engineering, next week will visit areas hit by Katrina to examine the state of residential and low-rise buildings.

Along with a team from the Institute for Business and Home Safety, Dolan, who represents the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will fly to Pensacola, Fla. From there, Dolan and the team will load up long range vehicles with digital cameras and instrumentation, and observe moisture levels, building strengths and excessive structure damage in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. 

Additionally, measurements of Katrina’s wind velocity, taken from area wind towers, will be compared to damage levels to determine survival rates of buildings.

The primary objective of the mission is to determine whether current building codes and rules are substantial enough to withstand natural disasters, and suggest changes for future codes to provide sturdier and safer buildings, Dolan said.

Though the task is not specifically for government or insurance purposes, information obtained from operations can be used to better advise insurance companies on insurance rates and change government building code laws.

“This is not a search and rescue mission,” Dolan said. “This is about long-term effects on structures and fixing the system.”

Dolan, who also helped in changing building codes after Hurricane Andrew, said his prior experiences likely will not prepare him for the fatalities and devastation he will encounter. Nevertheless, he plans to keep his mission at the front of his mind.

“We are doing something very important by trying to protect the biggest investments of Americans, especially those in the lower income bracket,” Dolan said.