RESTON, VA. — A new manual that outlines polices and procedures for conducting engineering assessments in the wake of natural and human-caused disasters has been adopted by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The Post-Disaster Assessment Manual was developed by ASCE’s Task Committee on Engineering Review Procedures (TCERP) in response to a recommendation from an independent task force that the Society’s procedures for such assessments be compiled into a single, readily accessible source. The task force, led by retired congressman and the former chair of the House Science Committee Sherwood Boehlert, was commissioned in late 2007 to review how the Society participates in engineering studies of national significance.
ASCE has participated in more than a dozen assessments in the last decade, including studies of the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001; earthquake assessments in Italy, China, Peru, Japan, Sumatra-Andaman, Algeria, Alaska and California; and assessments following hurricanes Katrina and Ike. According to Society president D. Wayne Klotz, P.E., D.WRE, F.ASCE: “ASCE has been conducting post-disaster assessments since the Johnstown Flood. As engineers sworn to protect public health, safety, and welfare, it is imperative that the public have confidence in our work. I believe that the publication of this manual will be an important element in continuing to guide this vital work in the future.”
ASCE’s purpose in doing such assessments is twofold. First, the behavior of engineered facilities that have been exposed to extreme forces must be evaluated so that engineers may learn from the disaster. Then, and perhaps more importantly, those lessons learned must be documented to inform the future actions of both the profession and society. In a letter to then-ASCE president David G. Mongan, P.E., F.ASCE, Boehlert noted that “ASCE possesses the expertise, resources, and commitment to public service that the job requires.”
TCERP’s role was to analyze recommendations made by the Boehlert Task Force against the unique mission and governance of a membership-based professional society, according to the committee’s chair, ASCE president emeritus H. Gerard Schwartz, Ph.D.,P.E., NAE, Pres.02.ASCE. “Our goal was to ensure that ASCE’s procedures reflect the high standards required of our profession.”
When developing the manual TCERP assessed not only ASCE’s longstanding practices for such reviews, but also the practices of more than 20 other organizations. The resulting document provides a single, comprehensive source for policies and procedures governing every aspect of post-disaster assessments, including: criteria for launching an assessment; funding mechanisms; selection of team leaders and members; team responsibilities; conflicts of interest; coordination with other organizations; schedules; staff support; public communications; and dissemination of lessons learned to engineers and the public.
TCERP’s membership also included: W. Gene Corley, Ph.D., P.E., NAE, Dist.M.ASCE (chair of ASCE’s World Trade Center Building Performance Study Team); Eugene Raymond Desormeaux, P.E., F.ASCE (former president of ASCE’s Louisiana Section); Billy L. Edge, Ph.D., P.E., Dist.M.ASCE (member of ASCE’s Hurricane Katrina External Review Panel and former president of the Coasts, Oceans, Ports, and Rivers Institute); Curtis L. Edwards, P.E., F.ASCE (member of ASCE’s South Asian Earthquake and Tsunami Assessment Team); and, Joseph Wartman, Ph.D., P.E. (member of ASCE’s Hurricane Katrina Levee Assessment Team).
A copy of the manual can be found at: http://www.asce.org/inside/TCERP_Manual_Final.pdf. For more information on ASCE assessments, including copies of resulting publications, visit: http://content.asce.org/TaskForce/TaskForceonEngineeringReviews.html.