Knowing the signs of building collapse helps firefighters and other rescue workers save lives every day. These skills also come in handy to other professionals such as insurance adjusters and building engineers. As a homeowner, knowing these signs and symptoms may keep the family out of a potentially hazardous home purchase.
Age is a prominent factor in building collapse. Older homes are at increased risk of wood failure in support beams as well as foundation cracks. In addition to building age, the materials that went into creating the structure also play a significant role. Renovations constructed with substandard materials, built by non-licensed contractors or not inspected by local municipalities may not be able to handle the stress of a fire or other natural disaster.
Condition of the Walls
Cracks or bulges in a building's walls are a sign of imminent structural collapse. Walls no longer able to support the weight of the building's roof or upper floors will start to crack under the pressure. In addition, water or smoke that is able to push through walls that would normally have solid masonry are a sure sign that substantial fatigue has occurred.
Floors and Ceilings
Sagging floors and roofs is a special sign of building collapse because they often go unnoticed. Firefighter Tom Brennan recalls a whole roof collapsing on him and a partner by Brennan simply touching the roof with a hook. "It slammed my officer into the corner remote from the entrance," writes Brennan. "He was brought to his knees as he was buried by the 'wave of tin.'" Water accumulating in certain sections of floor may indicate sagging before any noticeable bowing has taken place.