Protecting Against Terrorist Attacks In Urban Environments: Explosion Protection For Buildings

1940 words - 8 pages

Blast protection, until recently, has only needed to be considered when constructing underground shelters and military bunkers. Currently, however, there is a need for urban buildings and similar structures used consistently by the general public to withstand forces from nearby explosions. This need is due to the recent climb in terrorist attacks in urban or crowded environments. These attacks have used the lack of blast resistance in these buildings as a means for creating widespread havoc through detonating an improvised explosive device (IED). These devices range from explosives planted inside a structure to roadside or vehicular bombs. An urban environment causes even relatively small explosions to be extremely potent since their energy is reflected off of walls and other structural components, making the area over which the energy dissipates very concentrated (King 1346).
Traditionally, methods for blast protection in buildings of high importance or bunkers consisted of increasing the cross-sectional area of columns and enhancing the ratio of reinforcement of structural members (Runlin 2866). These methods are ineffective in practical engineering, however, due to the other necessary aesthetic and functional aspects of urban buildings. Another traditional method for personnel protection was to build bomb shelters into these buildings. This method assumes, however, that an attack will be expected; terrorist attacks are typically unexpected. As a result, researchers of blast protection have turned their focus towards finding materials that can help prevent severe structural blast damage without affecting a structure’s aesthetics and/or purpose.
Goals for Reducing Structure Damage
The main reason for protecting the integrity of a structure that is exposed to an explosion is to prevent further loss of life outside of an initial blast. Structures that collapse in an urban environment result in casualties inside the building and also result in collateral damage that may cause nearby structures to also collapse. This effect was seen in the collapse of the World Trade Center in New York City, although this collapse was not a result of the initial explosion. Had the towers not collapsed, it is estimated that close to half of the deaths could have been prevented (Dwyer). It is therefore vitally important for buildings that suffer damage from explosions to remain structurally stable for as long as
Building description Pressure (psi) Damage description

Steel frame–metal building 1.25


5.00 Metal siding anchorage failure
Sheeting torn off and internal walls damaged. Danger from falling objects
Building stands, but cladding and internal walls destroyed as frames distort
Building completely destroyed
Unreinforced masonry bearing wall system 1.00
3.00 Partial collapse of walls that have no fenestrations
Walls and roof partially collapse
Complete collapse
Building completely destroyed
Steel or...

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