On June 12, 2015, an Iberia bank drive-through collapsed in Fort Myers during business hours. Luckily no one was injured. Witnesses said the roof began to sag gradually before it eventually came crashing down. An inspector investigated the cause and determined that the collapse resulted from a combination of bad design and water damage.
So, specifically how did this happen? After taking some pictures and drawing my own conclusions, I talked to a contractor that was on-site. There
are actually two structures in one; the supporting structure and the cosmetic structure. If you notice the two outside columns in the picture have recessed inside the base of the columns. The top plates of the arches were nailed onto the underside of the trusses. The supportive structure is made up of steel I-beams and steel columns with wood trusses on top of the steel I-beams. The supportive structure stayed intact. The cosmetic structure failed because;
- The base of the columns were built separate from upper column.
- The base column was topped with plywood.
- The upper column transferred the weight of the structure to the plywood topped base column with no support directly underneath the upper column.
- The stucco cracked causing water damage to the plywood topped base column.
Why is this incident important to Firefighters?
- Just because a building has been inspected, doesn’t mean you should stop being concerned. Don’t have a false sense of security.
- Water damage alone can cause a building to have a catastrophic failure. Florida’s temperature changes and rainfall causes buildings to need constant waterproofing maintenance.
- Poor design and poor workmanship is everywhere. The building boom caused lots of people to turn a blind eye to real problems.
- This same type of incident can be applied to other structures that we encounter.
Imagine you are on scene of a water damaged structure that is on fire. However, you don’t know if the structural integrity is good enough to stand up the effects of fire. Should you be concerned? ABSOLUTELY! Unless you have a crystal ball, you don’t know when that structure will collapse. My final point is, structures with questionable structural integrity are everywhere. The importance of knowing building construction cannot be understated. Be very aware of the structures around you.