July 7, 2023
To better understand the seismic performance of our built environment, Exponent Senior Managing Engineers Ezra Jampole, Ph.D., P.E., and Jeffrey Hunt, Ph.D., P.E., traveled to Türkiye to analyze lifeline damage in the aftermath of the 2023 Türkiye-Syria earthquake. This catastrophic event and its aftershocks killed thousands and left more than a million people without food, water, or electricity. To help mitigate future devastation in earthquake-prone regions, Drs. Jampole and Hunt reveal some of the key damage mechanisms that impacted Türkiye's life-critical power infrastructure in their publication, "Insights for the Utility Industry in the Aftermath of the 2023 Türkiye-Syria Earthquake," in Western Energy Magazine, Summer 2023.
The authors investigated earthquake damage to Türkiye's energy infrastructure, bridges, viaducts, tunnels, roads, water and gas infrastructure, airports, industrial facilities, and residential and commercial buildings in lifeline corridors. They discovered that it's not sufficient to analyze assets such as transmission, distribution, and power generation structures individually. Because assets are often damaged by failures of soils or adjacent structures that can affect the grid, assets also need to be examined as part of an interconnected system that should be protected in its entirety.
One of the authors' key insights from the Türkiye-Syria earthquakes is that geotechnical hazards — such as rockfalls, landslides, and slope failures — were a common mechanism of direct damage to power infrastructure, especially transmission lines. Asset managers can mitigate the risk of transmission line failures from geotechnical hazards by better understanding potential failure mechanisms, including sliding, rupture, or liquefaction of adjacent soils, through probabilistic risk models such as those devised by the authors.
Because assets are part of an interconnected system, the authors stress that the Türkiye-Syria earthquake and its aftershocks highlight the importance of seismic risk assessments for both primary and secondary hazards, with the end goal of creating more robust, resilient infrastructure and communities.
From the publication: One initial observation common to transmission, distribution, and power generation structures is that it's not sufficient to analyze these assets individually, but rather as part of an interconnected system that needs to be protected in its entirety. Parts of the system are often damaged by failures of soils or adjacent structures, and these local failures can affect the grid.
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