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MCEER Bulletin, Volume 24, Number 1, Spring 2010

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Volume 24, Number 1, Spring 2010

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MCEER-AIDG Coordinate with UN on Haiti Earthquake Engineering Relief Mission

AIDG-MCEER team in Haiti

Members of the AIDG-MCEER Emergency Engineering Support team pose together before their return from Port-au-Prince. From Left: Andre Filiatrault, team leader; Jean-Philippe Simon, Reginald DesRoches, Dan Gregory, Scott DeHollander, Gabrielle Rigaud, Vladimir Charles, Eddy Germain, Caroline Zennie; (front) Wassim Ghannoum.

On January 21, 2010, MCEER Director Andre Filiatrault led a team of 10 French-speaking engineers to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Their mission was to assess the safety of buildings – principally hospitals, schools and food storage facilities that remained standing following the January 12, 7.0M earthquake.

The Emergency Engineering Support effort was initiated by the Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group (AIDG) on behalf of the United Nations. MCEER quickly joined this effort and played a pivotal role in the recruitment, selection and deployment of the initial structural engineering team. The seven-day mission was critical to easing the delivery of medical services, food and water to the Haitian people. Perhaps more importantly, it laid a foundation for a more sustainable UN effort to continue the evaluation of an estimated 100,000 damaged structures still standing in Port-au-Prince.

People walk past an unstable roof slab on St-Louis de Gonzague Catholic School Campus in Haiti.

People walk past an unstable roof slab on St-Louis de Gonzague Catholic School Campus in Haiti.

The team was stationed at the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), adjacent to the Port-au-Prince airport. Members included Andre Filiatrault (MCEER, University at Buffalo), team leader; Reginald DesRoches (Georgia Institute of Technology), Caroline Zennie (Parsons Corporation), Scott DeHollander (MRB Group), Wassim Ghannoum (University of Texas at Austin), Eddy Germain (New Jersey Department of Transportation), Dan Gregory (Green Energy Corporation), Gabrielle Rigaud (Tufts University), Jean-Philippe Simon (U.S. Department of Defense), and Vladimir Charles (Second Floor Studios).

The team followed ATC-20-1 (Applied Technology Council-20-1: Field Manual: Postearthquake Safety Evaluation of Buildings) rapid building assessment procedures. ATC donated 15 field manuals and condensed instruction materials to the effort.

An undamaged hospital is determined to be stable but remains unused due to fear of collapse.

An undamaged hospital is determined to be stable but remains unused due to fear of collapse.

Upon arriving at the UN compound, the team met with relief officials to recommend and establish a protocol to field and fulfill inspection requests. They created a special email address ( and a database to log requests and monitor the inspection process to completion. Included for each facility are its GPS coordinates, assigned ATC-20-1 placards, and hyperlinks to corresponding ATC-20-1 evaluation reports and building photos, among other relevant information. These procedures have been adopted by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), which continues to direct emergency engineering support going forward.

One troubling aspect to the team was the realization that many hospitals and other critical facilities that remained undamaged following the earthquake were going unused as Haitians feared they would collapse from aftershocks. Consequently, medical procedures were being conducted outdoors, and a significant amount of food and water was going undistributed.

In addition to hospitals and food storage facilities, team members also assessed stability of other infrastructure including government buildings, UN buildings, embassies, and NGO headquarters. In all, they inspected 115 buildings.

Their volunteer efforts took place under the guidance of representatives from the United Nations Development Programme, Food for Health International, and other AIDG humanitarian partner organizations, that escorted them through the various inspection sites in Haiti. At times they traveled under the protection of UN military escort.

UNOPS is continuing these Emergency Engineering Support activities, which will take several months to complete.

Those interested in volunteering their expertise to this effort should contact:

Manager a.i.
Haiti Project Centre
5, Impasse Delvime, rue Daniel Brun
Bois Moquette, Petion-Ville, Haiti

Phone: (509) 25 13 17 08 or (509) 25 13 17 09
Cell: (509) 37 02 35 36
Web site:

For more information on MCEER’s activities following the Haiti earthquake, visit