By Michael YEGHIAYAN
The City of Glendale and DreamWorks Animation introduced a partnership on Monday designed to expedite private industries’ ability to conduct business after an earthquake or natural disaster. The Back to Business Program will allow for authorized private engineers to serve as deputized structural evaluators with the power to inspect and reopen buildings pre-certified by the city.
The partnership between Glendale and DreamWorks is designed to alleviate city resources in the event of a disaster and is the first of its kind in Southern California.
City of Glendale Building Official Stuart Tom cited the lengthy shutdowns after the Northridge and Loma Prieta earthquakes as examples of the potentially overwhelming effect of a natural disaster. In addition, other cities are likely to be equally affected and unlikely to lend assistance.
“Participating entities, like DreamWorks Animation, will be pre-qualified to perform their own damage assessment by using private engineers whom I individually deputize to perform such work, said Tom. “This will free my staff from having to spend time on the DreamWorks campus, and instead spend their time assisting others in need throughout the City.”
The partnership was hailed by DreamWorks head of Corporate Security & Operations Matt Bogaard because of its potential ability to protect the safety of employees while maintaining business operations after an incident.
“When our idea first hatched many months ago, we were all very confident that this recovery program had no downside, and today our confidence hasn’t waned,” explained Bogaard. “In fact, the more we discuss B2B with our industry partners and colleagues, the more evident it becomes that partnerships such as these should be a piece of a greater global crisis planning and business resumption strategy.”
The pre-disaster evaluations are carried out by licensed engineers who are trained in the latest state-approved standards for inspections. These engineers are more likely to be familiar with their assigned buildings, and can be automatically deputized as evaluators after an earthquake with the declaration of a city emergency. The partnership stipulates the annual renewal of each of the buildings in the program and will not affect the city’s budget.
Structural Focus, the engineering firm that helped pioneer the program, modeled much of it on a similar program adopted by the city of San Francisco in the early 1990s.
“All of this preparation work helps make the program especially more efficient than if depending on the city’s own inspectors who will obviously be very busy after a significant earthquake and are likely to be much less familiar with these buildings anyway,” said president of Structural Focus David Cocke. “In addition, since our evaluators will be dedicated only to this group of buildings, if they find damage, they can immediately address the issues and will have the authority to reopen the buildings after they are made safe.”
City officials believe that the fully voluntary program will appeal to a number of businesses within city limits. Many of the details of the partnership with the DreamWorks campus can be applied to businesses and structures of a similar scale.
“A tremendous amount of effort was involved in developing the concept and the development of minimum standards for deputized engineers,” said Tom. “There are other cities that are interested in the program, as well.”