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Engineers must learn from 9/11 attacks


Having watched again the traumatic pictures of 9/11 this week, how do we all feel now, five years on, about getting great numbers of people out of ultra-tall buildings in an emergency?

The frenetic race to build the highest building continues unabated, it would seem. How comfortable are we about leaving this legacy for future generations?

Media interviews that I have listened to mention risk only briefly in discussions about the subject. Yet 9/11 showed us how a moderate-to-small perceived risk carried shattering consequences for world order.

'Risk Factor' is the product of two things - probability and the magnitude of the resulting loss. We must persuade people to consider and talk about 'Risk Factor' when thinking about major building and other civil engineering projects.

Yes, of course there is fabulous future for tall buildings that fulfil their purpose while enhancing the urban environment, in a controlled, safe manner.

To do this well, engineers can help by taking a few moments every now and then to get into the 'helicopter' frame of mind in which they can see the overall picture of where our projects are heading and see that the basic check list looks in order.

Hugh Armitage (F), Pamanugh@aol. com

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