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Understanding The Main Techniques To Prevent Rock Avalanches

Rock fall safety fence

Managing, containing, or preventing large-scale rock avalanches or smaller scale rockfalls requires a mix of techniques to protect railroads, highways, dams, and other public works. Engineers who evaluate mountains and other slopes determine the best, safest, and most effective way to reduce risk while balancing the impact of various methods on the environment, aesthetics, and cost.

Mitigation efforts are directed toward avoidance, stabilization, protection and management of risk.

Avoiding Rockfalls And Rock Avalanches

Avoidance techniques include building tunnels, realigning or rerouting roads, and elevating structures above the point of danger. While these approaches are the most protective solution, they bear the highest cost to install, along with ongoing maintenance costs.

Stabilizing Slopes To Prevent Rockfalls And Rock Avalanches

Stabilization measures involve reengineering the slope to reduce the likelihood of a rockfall. Approaches might include:

  • Removal of potentially hazardous material through scaling, blast scaling or trim blasting, as well as re-sloping the area to change its geometry.
  • Reinforcing the slope by adding rock bolts, steel pins, tie-backs, or covering it with shotcrete to keep rocks in place. Other reinforcement techniques include cable lashing and buttresses.
  • Drainage to reduce erosion.

These techniques come with a lower price in return for high effectiveness and ongoing need to supplement stabilization efforts.

Protection Techniques Against Falling Rocks

Protection methods are put into play once rocks have started to destabilize. These methods have lower installation costs, but higher maintenance costs and increased risks:

  • Mesh cable nets, which may consist of slope protection, anchored mesh, or suspended systems, catch rocks and contain them so that they do not damage the area below.
  • Catchment areas or sheds, which include ditches, berms, and rockfall sheds direct rocks to specific areas, which is feasible if the rocks are likely to be small in size.
  • Rigid or flexible barriers that prevent the passage of rocks to the area below such as concrete lighting walls, wood, and basket barriers.

Management Approaches To Preventing Rockfall

Management approaches aim to monitor and warn of risks, especially in cases where the financial, environmental, or other cost would be too high in the short run. Some risks can be minimized through techniques such as:

  • Warning signs advise people of potential rockfalls.
  • Road patrols can visit areas to report rocks on the road ahead.
  • Scaling removes loose rock as the rock continues to degrade over time.
  • Ditch cleaning removes rock buildup from ditches so that they can continue to be effective.
  • Monitoring test rocks to detect for potential eminent rockfalls.

Management techniques are often used in conjunction with other more aggressive measures.

A Rockfall Mitigation Company Can Help

When you are concerned about rock and slope stabilization or need rock mitigation services, Triptych Construction has extensive experience applying techniques to prevent falling rocks and rock avalanches. For information or a quote, contact us at (541) 673-4903.

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