By Ryan A. Kersting, S.E.
SEAOC President 2014-2015
My daughter’s 6th grade science class had an excellent earth science unit this spring that explored plate tectonics, volcanoes, and earthquakes among other topics. The teacher even incorporated some basic engineering activities into the lessons (maybe, just possibly, due in part to a few suggestions offered by my wife and me). As part of the unit, I was able to spend an entire day at the school talking to the students about how structural engineers design buildings to respond to earthquakes (while attempting to correct the “earthquake-proof” perception that was already apparent in their minds) and having some fun with simple shake table activities to bring some life to the conversation.
The advertising campaign for the “San Andreas” movie happened to follow shortly after these activities. The buzz surrounding this movie has certainly picked-up within my circles, and I expect it has in your circles as well.
I intend to watch and enjoy “San Andreas” for what it is: a Hollywood action thriller with special effects that purposefully portray fantasy, or at least exaggerated reality. However, I also intend to embrace the follow-up conversations and questions as opportunities to talk about what structural engineers do, how we expect buildings to perform, and why our profession is a critical component to the quality of life of our communities. As others have said, there is indeed (thankfully) plenty of fiction in the movie, but there are also some important real messages to be heard and shared, particularly about preparedness but also some of what to expect in the immediate aftermath.
Ours is a noble profession. The work we do does save lives and ultimately improves (and maintains) quality of life, even after natural disasters. Unfortunately, we are also often too humble and uncomfortable when it comes to letting people know about what we do. So, I encourage you, if not challenge you, to use this movie as a fun opportunity to talk about what you do, what you like about the movie, and what you think people ought to really know about earthquakes and structural engineering. If you get the chance to expand that into how proper structural engineering is not just about the performance of one building but even more so about the ability of an entire community to withstand and recover from a natural disaster, how fantastic would that be?
Freshen up that elevator pitch, dust off those talking points, and share your thoughts with SEAOC via email, Facebook, and even Twitter. I, for one, would love to hear from you.
I look forward to seeing many of you in the upcoming weeks as I attend the June dinner meeting in each region. In the meantime, don’t forget to register for the 2015 SEAOC Convention!!