Cranes and Natural Disasters
Cranes move heavy objects using a hoist, wire rope, chains, or other load bearing apparatuses. They use one or more simple machines to create mechanical advantage and thus move loads beyond the normal capability of a man. Cranes can lift and lower debris during natural disasters, or place rubble on trucks to be transported out of a disaster zone.
Types of Natural Disasters
Natural disasters include floods, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, and other natural phenomena. Each of these geological processes can cause loss of life and create widespread destruction to property. Emergency response is crucial in dealing with the aftermath of natural disaster, but just as critical are the disaster recovery teams, which include riggers and crane operators, as well as construction and heavy load moving supply companies that provide lifesaving equipment.
Disaster zones are unsafe to begin with, but using heavy machinery like cranes adds an extra level of safety concerns. For example, mobile crane load charts use level ground as a baseline for their success. It many natural disasters, stable or even ground do not exist, but crane operators must work quickly and efficiently to save lives and property. Natural disasters all across the world involve recovery teams that spend countless months and even years working at a site. The 2011 earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tōhoku, Japan or the 2004 Indian Ocean quake that killed more than 275,000 people, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, are prime examples of natural disasters in which recovery work still continues today.
Cranes Used in Natural Disasters
The type of natural disaster dictates the type of crane used during disaster recovery. Some disaster recovery teams use a crawler crane, which is simply a crane mounted on an undercarriage with a set of tracks or crawlers. These cranes provide stability and mobility to lift 40 to 3,500 short tons easily. The one disadvantage of a crawler crane is that they are very heavy and unstable. Ground may not support their weight. Large crawler cranes must also be disassembled and moved by trucks.
Aerial cranes, sometimes called sky cranes, are usually helicopters designed to lift large loads. They can get to hard to reach areas and perform disaster relief after natural disasters. Aerial cranes are probably most recognized in their efforts to battle forest fires, as they carry huge buckets of water used to extinguish the flames. In August 2013, Yosemite National Park was under siege by fire. Aerial cranes were used to help control fires that spread across 300 square miles of forestland.
Working with a professional should be the number one priority of a disaster relief team, because the safety of people and property has a direct connection to the knowledge and skills of an experienced crane operator.