Slapdash approach by many prefectures

About 95 percent of the country’s public buildings, which hundreds of thousands of people work in or visit every day, had never been inspected prior to any earthquake. According to figures recently released by the Anti-Seismic Planning and Protection Organization (OASP), most prefectures have not complied with OASP’s instructions to carry out preventive inspections. The organization’s head has proposed that fines be imposed and funding cut. OASP began a program of pre-seismic inspections of public buildings some years ago. All prefectures in Greece were asked to send out engineers to inspect public buildings (by means of the simple method of visual checks) and then to fill out forms evaluating the condition of the buildings. «Of the 80,000 public buildings in the country it is doubtful whether even 6,000 were checked,» said OASP president Costas Makropoulos. «In fact, in about 1,500 cases, the details sent to us were incomplete, so no clear picture can be drawn regarding their true condition.» Makropoulos did not hide his disappointment or even his anger at the way prefectures are treating the issue. «We are trying to exert pressure on them but so far to no effect. For example, in the prefecture of Arcadia, where (last Sunday’s) earthquake occurred, not a single public building has been inspected. I wonder what they would tell people if there was a big problem for example in the prefectural headquarters building,» he added. «Of course it is not only in Arcadia; all prefectures behave more or less in the same way, even in the Ionian Islands – the most seismically active area in Greece. I believe the time has come for the Interior and Environment ministries to act by setting deadlines for the inspections or else face funding cuts. I am afraid that is the only language they understand.» A five-member committee appointed by OASP (headed by Stavros Anagnostopoulos, head of Patras University’s Civil Engineering School’s Department of Construction) to evaluate the findings has already evaluated the evidence they have to hand. According to Makropoulos, the committee has decided on specifications for secondary inspections (of buildings where it is deemed necessary) and these will be sent to the prefectures shortly. The findings will make it easier to schedule action to shore up the buildings.