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In an emergency, the national response team or territorial authority will be able to quickly form trained rapid building assessment teams locally to quickly evaluate building safety and minimise risk to the public

MBIE boosts rapid building assessment resource — By Iain MacIntyre

Greater resource to facilitate prompt inspection of buildings in a state of emergency or transition period is being fostered by three specifically-targeted online courses recently introduced by the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE).

Each requiring about 30—40 minutes to complete, the Learning Management System courses unveiled in late October entail:

  • • 
Rapid building assessment – an introduction
  • • 
Rapid building assessors in the field

• Rapid building assessment – tier 2 refresher.

MBIE building system performance system design and implementation manager Seth Campbell says that, as at the end of March, the popular new courses had collectively attracted 264 enrolments.

“The two introductory courses are aimed at anyone involved in evaluating building safety after an emergency,” he tells NZCN. “They look at how to assess buildings from a safety perspective, as well as what it’s like working as part of the rapid building assessment team.

“The third course is a refresher for lead assessors who lead the rapid building assessment teams, and is about how to lead and optimise teamwork and cooperation. Anyone involved in managing buildings in an emergency will find these courses useful.”

However, Mr Campbell notes, completing these courses doesn’t qualify someone to become a registered rapid building assessor and there are no formal qualifications involved. “Only people who successfully complete the tier 2 rapid building assessors’ face-to-face workshops can be added to the rapid building assessors’ register.”

Stepping stones to further training

Mr Campbell says the online learning modules are essentially designed to provide refresher training to tier 2 rapid building assessors, as well as awareness/introduction training to those at the next ranking down of tier 3.

“Tier 2 includes senior building officials, chartered structural and geotechnical engineers, and registered architects capable of leading local operations and field teams. Tier 3 includes building officials, structural and geotechnical engineers and registered architects to support large-scale responses.”

The courses can also serve as a stepping stone to further training and qualifications in the sector. “It depends on the skills and experience of the individual – for example, they may start on tier 3 online learning modules and move up to tier 2 face-to-face training,” Mr Campbell explains.

The rapid building assessment process is one component of an emergency management plan that territorial authorities may turn to in response to a given emergency.

Mr Campbell notes the new courses form part of a range of information tools and resources that MBIE has either updated or newly developed over the past five years to support implementation of the rapid building assessment process. This body of work was triggered by recommendations of the Canterbury Earthquake Royal Commission following the seismic events of 2010 and 2011.

“These resources will help Civil Defence emergency management officials and rapid building assessors quickly evaluate building safety after a major event. Rapid building assessors include structural and geo-professional engineers, building control officers and registered architects located throughout New Zealand. Training on these resources was rolled out in 2015.”

Online resources

Applying nationally, these tools and resources are available online and include:

  • • 
Field guides – assisting assessors to carry out rapid building assessments, they provide advice on how to assess the safety of a building in different types of emergency events such as earthquakes, flooding and geotechnical incidents (land stability)
• Building assessment forms – these forms must be used by assessors with the field guides to rapidly assess damage to a building after an event, with different forms developed for different types of events (it also being noted that by using standardised forms, assessment information is collected consistently)
  • • 
Access placards – able to be placed, changed or removed by authorised Civil Defence emergency management officials only (including rapid building assessors), these placards detail how damaged a building is and whether there are any restrictions to access or occupancy.

“In addition to the tools and resources, MBIE provides face-to-face training throughout New Zealand for lead assessors and has done so since 2015 – over 500 lead assessors have been trained in face-to-face sessions on how to complete rapid building assessments. These assessors will lead local operations and assessment teams after an emergency,” Mr Campbell says.

“Tools and resources are kept up to date – training is ongoing to ensure lead assessors stay up to date with what’s required of their role and to build their confidence in an emergency. Future sessions are planned for 2019 based on current rapid building assessor numbers and the hazard risk of the region.”

Responsible for training

Mr Campbell explains that, under the National Civil Defence Plan 2015, MBIE is responsible for the training and qualification of building professionals who are able to assess buildings during and after an emergency.

The primary means by which MBIE fulfils these obligations is by providing the following one-day, face-to-face training sessions for tier 2 rapid building assessors:

  • • 
Undertaking rapid building assessments – workshop for tier 2 assessors
  • • 

Rapid building assessment – workshop for tier 2 geotechnical assessors.

MBIE maintains an up-to-date register of rapid building assessors, Mr Campbell adds. “This means that in an emergency, the national response team or territorial authority will be able to quickly form trained rapid building assessment teams locally to use the tools and resources developed by MBIE to quickly evaluate building safety and minimise the risk to the public (see opposite). As at March 2019, there were 445 rapid building assessors on the register.”

Iain MacIntyre is an award-winning journalist who specialises in transport and infrastructure issues within New Zealand


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