Sudi Shoja, P.E., F.ASCE, principal for Engineering Solutions Services, serves as the disaster preparedness chair for the ASCE Orange County Branch. Unfortunately, it’s a role that has been called upon with great frequency this year. Shoja has helped lead an impressive effort of collaboration and generosity in Southern California as the region deals with relentless wildfires. She shares her story here.
“Fires in Northern California and recent fires in Ventura once again rage through our beautiful state, not just burning through the forests but destroying several thousand residential homes and other buildings. The death of a firefighter in the recent Thomas Fires, along with the destruction left behind, are hard to bear at any time, but even more so just prior to the holidays.
“ASCE has been partnering with the California Office of Emergency Services in responding to disasters. In the last two fires, ASCE responded to calls to provide Safety Assessment Program (SAP) evaluators to assist the local jurisdictions. I was humbled when I received a note from an engineer who lost her house in the Ventura fires and still made herself available to help the local agencies with their quest to assess the remaining facilities:
“‘I’m a SAP evaluator not only living in Ventura but also lost my residence and all belongings to the Thomas Fire,’ she wrote. ‘I’d be happy to help however I can.’ ”
“There are simply not enough words to express our feelings of both sorrow and gratitude.
“ASCE’s list of current SAP evaluators exceeds 500 people. Both times, we received an overwhelming outpouring of interest to assist. ASCE was able to provide six SAP evaluators to assist with the Ventura fires. Our responders for the Napa fires were placed on the backup list but not deployed.
“ASCE branches in Orange County, Los Angeles, and San Diego work together to offer SAP classes. SAP is a volunteer service to respond to the aftermath of a disaster to assist the local jurisdictions with assessing facilities. Our goal at ASCE is to train as many qualifying engineers and inspectors to become SAP evaluators, so we can assist in case of a disaster whether in our own community or farther away. We also would like to use this opportunity as a reminder to the current SAP evaluators to keep their certificates valid and renew in a timely manner.
“The recent disasters are just another reminder of the power of nature to destroy all that we have built as engineers. Our much-needed expertise at such times is vital to assisting our fellow citizens and starting the path toward rebuilding their lives.”