The Civil Protection Department in Italy is entrusted with the prediction and prevention of natural and man-made disasters. It addresses and coordinates emergency plans and immediate intervention. Through the department, Italy participates in the European Union (EU) Civil Protection Mechanism, which has been created to respond efficiently to emergencies inside and outside the EU.
Italy, one of the world’s most beautiful and culturally rich places, is regularly exposed to significant seismic activity and the subsequent risk of hazards. This means that special measures must be taken to protect the population from potential building collapse, preserve centuries-old edifices and provide stability and functionality for critically important establishments (such as hospitals) during earthquakes. These are just few examples of situations in which the Dipartimento della Protezione Civile (the Civil Protection Department) steps in.
Protezione Civile is part of the Italian National Service in charge of the prevention, forecast and monitoring of risk and intervention procedures, working closely with the regional and local governments. One of its main missions is to ensure that everything is in place and an effective response is ready when natural disasters such as earthquakes occur. This is a constant concern in Italy. If the Council of Ministers declares a state of national emergency, it is the head of the Protezione Civile who is in charge of coordinating the execution of the first interventions.
Protezione Civile currently uses four Simcenter SCADAS™ XS hardware systems to measure vibrations in various buildings, some of which deserve special attention as they must be able to withstand seismic activity in order to prevent loss of life. Simcenter SCADAS XS is being used by Protezione Civile throughout Italy. Among the buildings that have so far been measured with Simcenter SCADAS XS is a professional institute in Pescara (in Abruzzo in the center of Italy); the Municipal Operations Center of Terni (in Umbria) that deals with emergency management; and a fire department, the city hall and a hospital in Lamezia Terme (in Calabria in southern Italy).
“Simcenter SCADAS XS is more than a data acquisition tool; it is our reliable working partner,” says Daniele Spina, Ph.D., structural engineer and experienced technical and scientific specialist at Protezione Civile. “We purchased four of them to take fast and accurate measurements and acquire more data, which is crucial for us. To collect data, we place them in different parts of a building, on separate floors for instance. Thanks to the integrated GPS (Global Positioning System), we are able to synchronize the signals coming from all four to reconstruct the behavior of the building. Thus we have a clear view of how it reacts to vibrations in the precise points we are interested in.
“With the recorded information, we do operational modal analysis to identify modal parameters like mode shape, modal frequency and damping. This helps us make our mathematical calculations and predict the seismic behavior of a building. Ultimately, if we can estimate the vulnerability of a building in case of an earthquake, this allows us to take further precautionary measures.”
Assessing a building’s vulnerability – the potential for damage that can be caused by an earthquake, depending on its intensity – is a complex matter. Many parameters, such as the age of the building, the location, the materials it is made of, the duration and intensity of an earthquake are just a few of the things that must be taken into account. Identifying the factors that can influence a building’s behavior, especially in highly exposed areas, is vital.
“Our focus is the protection of civilians in risky situations,” says Spina. “For this, we must make sure that important buildings that are dedicated to public health and safety stay operational during earthquakes. So far, we have tested buildings for vibrations with the Simcenter SCADAS XS in various locations – including Emilia Romagna, Tuscany and Umbria – all earthquake-prone regions. We are very happy with the results and the response we get from the Simcenter SCADAS XS system. We have full confidence in the quality of these tools.”
Therefore, one of the major tasks that Protezione Civile handles is hazard assessment. That means analyzing sites, identifying critically important buildings (including power stations, hospitals, military installations), and conducting a safety assessment of each one, locating buildings that might become a danger to the population and analyzing potential for risk, pinpointing sensitive areas, etc. Data acquisition and measurements also help Protezione Civile collect and provide valuable information for urban planning.
Simcenter SCADAS XS has been designed for accurate, on-the-spot validation of all measurement set-up and recorded data, helping engineers avoid unexpected (and costly) surprises when going back to the office to analyze the acquired data. Simcenter SCADAS XS can be used as a classical frontend with a connection to a personal computer (PC) that is running Simcenter Testlab™ software or Simcenter™ Testxpress software, both of which allow real-time, in-depth noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) analysis. However, it may be used without connection to a PC as a standalone data recorder (with or without a tablet), which is often more practical for in-the-field data acquisition.
“On the practical side, Simcenter SCADAS XS is a wonderful tool,” says Spina. “The environment in which we usually have to make measurements is a busy one, always crowded with people walking back and forth. What you do not want to have is a lot of cables lying on the floor. Simcenter SCADAS XS has a standalone battery and we only use short cables and accelerometers, which are easy to set up.
This allows us to work efficiently and carefree during busy hours where there is a lot of commotion. All we have to do is switch on the four of them, if this is the type of measurement we need, and then work with only one tablet. We can easily monitor incoming data as we walk from one Simcenter SCADAS XS to the other, tablet in hand. Because they are so small, compact and light, it is also very easy for us to send them to various regions in Italy that require vibration measurements.”
The fact that Protezione Civile uses Simcenter SCADAS XS in a domain as specific as vulnerability assessment of buildings is no coincidence and speaks to the tool’s adaptability. The department has been familiar with Simcenter™ solutions for more than 10 years and has been using Simcenter Testlab and Simcenter SCADAS Mobile hardware to cover most of its measurements for various applications. These also include building bridges, assessing construction and collecting data for scientific monitoring.