In early June, Philadelphia first responders were called to the scene of a building collapse with people trapped inside. The accident killed several and injured many others. Buildings can collapse for many reasons: faulty construction and /or engineering, terrorism, fires or explosions, lack of owner’s attention to inspections and warnings, earthquakes, sinkholes and other situations. While we may see this type of accident in third-world countries, their incidence is relatively rare in developed areas such as the United States. So, when we do hear of a building collapse in our country, we begin to ask all types of questions. What can be done in the event of a building collapse, and who is to blame? Those are just a few of the questions that are difficult to answer, especially if you find that you or someone you know is a victim.
Safety for surviving a building collapse runs in the same vein as many other emergencies, and sticking with the basics is your first course of defensive action. Here are some safety pointers:
- Pay attention to officials when they direct you to do something at the scene.
- Never go back inside the collapsed building, or in an area that has the potential of collapsing.
- Do not try to remove debris to help someone who is buried without the guidance of an emergency responder. Your attempts could do more harm than good.
- Do not use elevators if you hear warnings in the area, or after the collapse, regardless of how sturdy or operable they appear.
- Take shelter under a sturdy table or desk if you find yourself in the middle of a collapse.
- Shout for help if you are trapped under debris. Shout until you are heard.
- Cover your nose and mouth so you do not continue to breathe possible toxins that may be in the air.
- As an ongoing practice, report any flaws you see in any building to the owner or supervisor.
Earlier in the year, we heard of a building collapse in Mumbai. The developers of that building were later arrested for illegal building construction. And, in other cases, despite warnings that the buildings were deemed unsafe, supervisors still insisted workers continue to do their jobs at dilapidated warehouses. A series of unfortunate events such as these have left many injured and dead, and some still searching for missing family and friends.
If you have been involved in a building collapse, or know someone who has, finding any evidence at the scene may be difficult depending on the extent of the damage and collapse. If owners were warned and did nothing, for instance, you may have a personal injury case that your New York attorney can help settle for you.
A building collapse can occur suddenly and sometimes without any clear or apparent warning. If you find yourself in the middle of one, realize that help is on the way, and do what you can to stay protected until help arrives.