Post-Disaster Building Assessment (PDBA) plays an important role in disaster management following an emergency by allowing trained professionals to rapidly assess building safety, and determine if structures can be re-occupied. The deployment of trained professionals reduces the impact on emergency and social service resources during disasters, and allows communities to recover more quickly.
By participating in PDBA, individuals with design, construction and facility management expertise can be a significant resource to local authorities that are responsible for responding to and managing the effects of a disaster.
The AIBC in coordination with BC Housing, Engineers and Geoscientists BC, and the Justice Institute of British Columbia, have put together a framework for their respective organizations to participate in PDBA.
The framework was developed through a two-year applied research project which was funded through the Canadian Safety and Security Program, a federal program of Defence Research and Development Canada’s Centre for Security Science, in partnership with Public Safety Canada.
The applied research involved a review of relevant academic and professional literature, interviews with national and international key informants, and input from stakeholders in provincial and community-level emergency management.
PDBA Training Workshop
AIBC registrants, architectural students and others with building construction expertise who are interested in participating in PDBA are required to take training that aligns with the provincial and international protocols and standards.
PDBA is a one-day course offered annually by the AIBC as part of its professional development activities. It covers technical and operational post-disaster safety evaluation procedures and helps participants develop the necessary skills to properly assess damaged buildings for occupancy and use following a major disaster. By the end of a full-day course, participants should understand the different types of assessments, what to look for during each, what is a typical team composition, an overview of emergency response in BC, the various agencies and professional associations who are involved and how AIBC registrants who have completed the training fit into the system.
After completing the training, participants will receive a PDBA certificate of completion. It is recommended that trained professionals re-take the course every four years especially if deployment has not been experienced firsthand.
Upcoming PDBA Training Workshops can be found on the AIBC Professional Development Opportunities webpage.
Registering to Become an Assessor
Once trained, individuals can register on BC Housing’s provincial registry to indicate deployment availability.
In B.C., individual municipalities are responsible for responding and managing the effects of a disaster. Should PDBA be required, municipalities would contact Emergency Management BC (EMBC). As BC Housing is responsible for the deployment coordination of all PDBA volunteers in B.C., EMBC would contact BC Housing requesting PDBA resources. Individuals who have registered to become an assessor would then be notified by BC Housing through a text which would guide them through self-assessment and availability checklists, and then provide detailed instructions regarding deployment location and what to bring.
AIBC’s PDBA training is limited to certain types of assessments. When in the field, trained professionals must use their best judgement and not take on a task for which they are not trained, or are not comfortable, including, but not limited to, assessing complex buildings or infrastructure, buildings with hazardous materials or performing detailed building conditions assessments.
As a Public Safety Lifeline Volunteers/ Building Assessor, under EMBC and BC Housing, there is a limited amount of liability protection from the provincial government:
- WorkSafeBC coverage
- General liability insurance (not professional liability/errors or omissions)
In order to be covered by the province’s insurance, a volunteer must be officially deployed and sign in at their deployment centre using an EMBC task number. If a volunteer does not sign in and register, they will not have any coverage and will be doing this work at their own risk. Volunteers should register as individuals and not as representatives of a firm, as there is uncertainty about whether the term “person” used in their policy descriptions includes legal entities.
The Emergency Program Act provides exemption from civil liability for persons, when carrying out measures relating to emergencies and disasters and for which the person(s) was not grossly negligent. It is important to note that there is a legal risk to volunteer assessors. The AIBC is collaborating with the province to address this insurance coverage gap for future volunteer post-disaster assistance. This gap relates to the initial legal costs of defending all claims, such as professional negligence, that are unrelated to bodily injury or property damage.
The AIBC encourages registrants who intend to volunteer to speak with their insurance provider to ensure that they have coverage for professional liability claims that are related to volunteer PDBA work.
Robyn Fenton Architect AIBC