Anchorage Earthquake Debrief

In a seismically active area like Anchorage, Alaska, sprinkler designers, installers and inspectors pay close attention to the hanging and bracing requirements. These requirements were put to the test once again at 8:29 a.m. on Nov. 30, 2018 as a magnitude 7.1 earthquake rocked South Central Alaska. The epicenter was near Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, located about 10 miles north of Anchorage. Subsequent aftershocks, some registering as high as 4.0, continued to hit the region for several months.

I worked with Bart Meinhardt of Anchorage Fire Department to conduct an earthquake debrief this April to gather information on what worked—and what didn’t—during the seismic event. NFSA’s Vice President of Engineering Mark Hopkins attended to hear firsthand the experiences of sprinkler fitters, building inspectors, fire officials, and others. We also met with NFSA members Chinook Fire Protection, Inc. and Accel Fire Systems. On a previous visit, Todd Heesch of GMW Fire Protection had shown me some of the impacts of the earthquake on his building and those GMW had serviced. My takeaway from the experience is that buildings with properly installed systems that followed current codes fared as well as could be expected when Mother Earth shakes us to the core.

Watch for specific information on the findings from NFSA’s Engineering Department.