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City database highlights old buildings that could be dangerous in a quake

COURTESY PHOTO: CITY OF PORTLAND - A screenshot shows the location of unreinforced masonry buildings in downtown Portland. A new database is available to locate the buildings that the city fears could be heavily damaged in an earthquake.Are you in a building that could crumble in a big earthquake?

The city of Portland has released a new map and database to help answer that question. The database provides locations and information on about 1,800 unreinforced masonry buildings in Portland that are vulnerable to quakes.

The database, www.portlandonline.com/bds/urms, shows buildings constructed before the 1960s that used brick with little to no steel reinforcement in the walls. Unless retrofitted, the buildings could crumble or collapse in a significant earthquake, according to city officials.

The new building data was collected as part of the Portland Unreinforced Masonry Seismic Retrofit Project, which included Portland’s Bureau of Development Services, the Bureau of Emergency Management, the Portland Development Commission and community members.

Since the last time Portland collected data on unreinforced masonry buildings in the 1990s, only 13 percent of the buildings have been upgraded, and another 8 percent have been demolished.

The city’s Unreinforced Masonry Seismic Retrofit Project is working on a mandatory retrofit policy, which could include incentives for building owners. The proposal may be ready for a City Council discussion later this year.

More information can be found at www.portlandoregon.gov/pbem/urmproject.