Minutes of August 26-27, 2003, Meeting - Gaithersburg, Maryland
The slides from the presentations are embedded as links to PDF files within this document and, thus, are summarized in these minutes. Each presentation was followed by a discussion period. “Q” indicates a question, “A” the corresponding answer, and “C” a comment. All questions and comments, unless otherwise noted, were made by Advisory Committee members. All answers unless otherwise noted, were by NIST personnel.
August 26, 2003
Dr. Arden Bement opened the National Construction Safety Team (NCST) Advisory Committee meeting at 10:00 a.m. with a welcome to the Committee members. He stated that he will be preparing a set of tough questions that he will pose to the Advisory Committee for their consideration and discussion at their next meeting. The questions will be made public. He also asked the Advisory Committee members for their input on questions thatshould be posed to the Committee.
Mr. Paul M. Fitzgerald, Committee Chair
Mr. Paul Fitzgerald asked that recommendations or questions for NIST be highlighted so that they could be captured in the minutes of the meeting and reminded the Committee members that their ability to influence the World Trade Center (WTC) investigation was really only over the next few months. He also reminded the Committee that questions or recommendations could be submitted at any time.
Mr. Fitzgerald also noted that the draft agenda for future meetings would be circulated to the Advisory Committee 5 to 6 weeks before the meeting. The Committee members will have 5 to 10 days to review and comment on the draft agenda. Advisory Committee members should give suggested agenda items to Mr. Fitzgerald or Mr. Cauffman as soon as possible.
The Advisory Committee members discussed the possibility of having a verbatim transcript of future Committee meetings. It was decided that the objective of the minutes of the Advisory Committee’s meetings is to summarize the discussions and to capture the key questions and recommendations of the Committee. Also, a transcript may be too voluminous. (Following the receipt of public comments later in the day, this issue was discussed further on the second day of the meeting.)
Dr. Jack Snell briefly discussed the NCST Act and the role of the Committee. He stated that on September 11, 2001, an enemy of the United States of America hijacked and drove airplanes into three buildings—the two World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. Incredibly, the buildings did not collapse instantly but remained standing for some time—allowing most of the occupants to escape and luring first responders inside to facilitate rescue and attempt to bring the raging fires under control.
Dr. Snell said that we know what happened, we even know who did it. So why an investigation, and why a National Construction Safety Team Act? The answers to these questions are important and set the context for the Advisory Committee and their role.
1. NIST is doing the investigation to find out how the building performed to assure the public that every practical means is being taken to derive the appropriate lessons for practice, standards, and codes.
2. The Congress enacted the NCST Act to ensure that means were in place so that in the future such investigations would be launched in a timely manner, that critical evidence would be preserved, and that those responsible for conducting the investigations had the resources and authorities necessary to do their job. They also charged NIST with the responsibility to see to it that appropriate steps are taken to act on the findings and recommendations of the investigation teams.
The Advisory Committee’s job, as Paul and Arden so eloquently have stated, is to advise the director on how NIST does these things, so that the results are optimal. NIST much prefers the quarterback get the best possible signals during, rather than after, the game.
In this context, the Advisory Committee too now has a fullplate. Dr. Snell briefly reviewed the agenda and tasks:
What is the end point of what NIST does under NCST? Deriving full public benefit from building failures in the form of thorough, objective, factual investigations, and timely and appropriate follow-on actions. Full public benefit typically will result from beneficial, timely, and cost-effective change to practice, standards, and codes.
Thus the normal sequence of activities for a NIST-led NCSTinvestigation would be:
PRESENTATION (pdf file)
The WTC investigation is already in full sway. Dr. Snell indicated that in this highly unusual case, it is obvious that certain efforts be initiated immediately; there is no sense waiting until the ink is dry on the WTC investigation report to begin to prepare for implementation of what will certainly be included among the major findings and recommendations. He briefly reviewed two important elements of the WTC response.
Investigations and the NCST provide a practical means to minimize the likelihood of future consequences by providing a mechanism for timely investigations and preservation of evidence. The endpoint of the NCST Act is the full public benefit of rapid implementation of knowledge gained from investigations.
The International Code Council (ICC) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) have schedules for proposing changes to model building codes. Both codes are revised on a 3-year cycle. The deadlines for proposing changes to 2006 editions of the model codes are October 17, 2003, for NFPA and October 2004 for ICC. The deadlines for proposing changes to the 2009 editions of the model codes is October 2006 for NFPA and October 2007 for ICC. A change in practice can happen quickly. However, changes in codes and standards can take years. For example, NIST is already working with industry to begin developing the technical basis for revisions to elevator standards for their use in fire emergencies.
Q: I understand wanting to be expedient in recommending changes, yet the code schedules are a long way off. Have you looked at other mechanisms to get code changes implemented?
Mr. Michael Rubin addressed procedural matters related to the functioning of the Advisory Committee, interaction with NIST and the public and addressed the criteria that must be met in order to hold a closed session of the Advisory Committee.
The Advisory Committee does not have the authority to decide on topics to be covered in closed session. Rather, that decision rests with officials at the Department of Commerce (DOC). Based upon a written request from NIST, the General Counsel and the Assistant Secretary for Administration at DOC must determine in writing whether any closed sessions of the Advisory Committee are permissible under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). The general rule under FACA is that all advisory committee meetings must be open to the public, and must be noticed in the Federal Register at least 15 days prior to the meeting. All meetings of the Advisory Committee must be held in a physical site to allow the public to attend. It is possible for closed meetings to be virtual meetings, but they would have to be approved and would require advance notice in the Federal Register.
The criteria for closing Federal Advisory Committee meetings are established in the FACA at 5 U.S.C 552b(c). There are 10 different criteria under which a Federal Advisory Committee meeting can be closed. NIST anticipates that there may be instances where meetings are closed in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 552b(c) (4), (5), (9)(B), or (10) to allow the Committee to discuss and advise the NIST Director on topics that meet these criteria. NIST has received a favorable determination from DOC that permits it to close portions of meetings that meet those criteria:
Q: Can you expand on criminal investigation information? How does it apply to state and local authorities?
Q: Under (9)(B), where does reviewing and commenting on the NIST draft report fall?
Q: Draft reports are held confidential. We are asked to comment. When we discuss these comments, the reports are no longer considered confidential?
Q: How many people are needed to form subcommittees—1, 2, 3?
C: I had the understanding that closed sessions are necessary to do Committee work and to understand the nitty gritty details on an investigation.
Q: The Committee’s report to Congress may require members to work together. Can we clarify?
Advisory Committee members were encouraged to contact Mr. Rubin with any other questions about the function of the Committee.
PRESENTATION (pdf file)
Dr. James Hill gave an update on the status of the NCST Act implementing procedures. The Final Rule covering collection, preservation, and protection of evidence collected and information created was published in the Federal Register on May 7, 2003. A Proposed Rule that covers other major implementing procedures is under review at DOC. The Proposed Rule currently includes sections on preliminary reconnaissance, building failure, conditions for establishing a team (criteria for initiating an NCST investigation by NIST), size and composition of a team, and typical tasks in an investigation. Historically, in the United States, building failures that have “resulted in substantial loss of life or that posed significant potential for substantial loss of life” have occurred less than once per year. This rate of occurrence is likely to continue except for terrorist acts.
Dr. Hill also described the NCST meeting on Interagency Collaboration, which was held at NIST on July 31, 2003. This meeting explored collaboration with other Federal agencies—attendees included the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); Army Corps of Engineers; National Research Council; Federal Emergency Management Agency; Chemical Safety Board; Federal Bureau of Investigation; and National Transportation Safety Board; among many others. Possible collaboration with NIST may involve providing experts for reconnaissance and for teams, supporting experiments, and making training available to team members.
Q: With regard to the statement that information created by NIST may not be used in any suit or action for damages, does this refer only to civil actions? If the NCST investigation is exposed to information that could be used in a criminal investigation could it be used in a criminal case?
Q: If investigators are refused timely access to a site, evidence may be lost. Could NIST investigators have a “letter in pocket” to help gain access? A Committee member stated that he knows of several cases where critical evidence was destroyed while awaiting access approval to a site.
Q: If investigators uncover evidence of faulty materials or equipment that could be present elsewhere, are they precluded from disclosing that information prior to the release of the final report?
Q: Data collection is very important. Recruiting and training is critical. In the case of human subjects, human subject clearances and a certificate of confidentiality may be needed in advance of an NCST investigation. How does the confidentiality of information square with the Freedom of Information of Information Act (FOIA)?
With regard to the Certificate of Confidentiality: The Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services may authorize protection of privacy of individuals participating in research by withholding their names and other distinguishing characteristics. For example, a person’s name and Social Security number can be withheld. NIST is covered under FOIA section 6 and can withhold information that would constitute an invasion of privacy. Both are at the discretion of the Federal agency. A Certificate of Confidentiality gains no further exemption beyond what NIST already has.
C: Most prominent structural failures occur during construction. NIST access to a site for these investigations should not be an issue. Cover up of data and information should not be a problem due to professional obligations and liability concerns. It would be advantageous for NIST to develop a professional relationship with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The OSHA requirement to publish a report in six months sometimes hampers investigations, and NIST would be able to investigate an accident for a longer period of time.
C: This is a follow up on earlier comment regarding the release of public safety information. As an example, the work that NIST did following the Northridge Earthquake on the failure of welded steel moment frames; we would not want to withhold information until the end of the NCST investigation if it affected public safety.
C: Why do we say that we expect one NCST investigation per year with the exception of terrorist acts? Suggest omitting the statement regarding terrorist acts.
C: A substantial loss of life due to natural disasters may mean multiple buildings in an NCST investigation.
C: I advocate a prescriptive approach for launching an NCST investigation based on the number of fatalities. Every disaster may have code compliance consequences. We need to be definitive so the public would know when to expect an investigation to be launched. Buildings burn to the ground everyday, but they do not all warrant an NCST investigation.
Q: On slide 8, where do interior finishing materials fall under the criteria?
Q: How easy will it be to determine whether a building failed at less than the design value?
Q: The intent of the criteria presented was to include failures during construction and in service?
C: (NIST) NIST needs to have teams established in advance to advise on NCST investigations and to advise NIST on whether to launch an investigation. The NTSB criteria for launching an investigation are similar to what NIST is considering. The Chemical Safety Board criteria are more prescriptive.
Q: With respect to the size and composition of teams and typical tasks, will a narrowly focused team have the expertise to identify other possible failure modes?
Q: Was the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at the NCST Interagency Collaboration Meeting? What is their understanding of how Building Performance Assessment Team (BPAT) efforts would plug into NCST investigations?
Dr. Shyam Sunder is leading the NCST investigation of the WTC disaster of September 11, 2001. He presented a briefing on the status of the WTC investigation.
A progress report was issued on May 7, 2003. Dr. Sunder stated that responses to the May 2003 WTC Investigation Progress Report were particularly helpful and generated additional input to the investigation team on the condition of the fireproofing in the towers. The facts presented in the progress report have not been questioned. It was suggested that NIST examine the positive aspects of the buildings performance. Had the buildings collapsed immediately, the number of casualties would have been considerably higher. NIST will be objective in the investigation and findings, but will point out both positive and negative aspects of building performance as supported by the facts of the investigation. NIST is not interested in evaluating the buildings from the standpoint of designing a building to withstand an aircraft impact.
Dr. Sunder reported that NIST has received a lot of critical data since the last meeting that are being used by the different project teams. Major media outlets have provided a considerable amount of information that is being analyzed. Overall, significant progress in data collection has been achieved since May 2003.
He also provided the status on the selection of external experts and contractors. Six contracts have been awarded; six more are pending. Nine experts are under contract, and four others have been hired as expert consultants. The contracting process is nearing completion, which thus far has successfully augmented NIST in-house capabilities.
Dr. Sunder described the schedule and challenges of the WTC investigation. The draft investigation report is scheduled for September 2004. Challenges facing the team include the massive amounts of data; level of complexity in fire-structure modeling and collapse analysis; scope and scale of occupant behavior, evacuation, and emergency response study; process and time for acquiring outside expertise; and the Institutional Review Board (IRB) and Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) requirements and process.
Over the last 12 months, however, the WTC investigation team has made many key accomplishments. They have collected more than 200 boxes of data from external sources and about 250 pieces of steel. Through analysis, they have determined the mechanical and metallurgical properties of the recovered steel. A structural database and model of the WTC towers has been developed.
Other key accomplishments include the time-sequenced visual analysis of fire and damage to the towers, fire dynamics and thermal response modeling, and experimental validation of fire dynamics and thermal-structural models. Computational interfaces have been developed between fire and structural models and software.
In addition, the methodology and protocols were developed for the first-person data collection on occupant behavior, evacuation, and emergency response. Team members extensively reviewed Port Authority Police Department and New York Police Department communications data.
Dr. Sunder described the WTC fire model input study, where NIST created a computer workstation similar to one in WTC 1 and set it on fire. The results provided input for the Fire Dynamics Model. The burn test video was shown.
The schedule for each project was briefly described, as well as the interdependencies between projects. Dr. Sunder also discussed the coupled analysis.
Q: How many proposals were submitted in response to the solicitation for fire endurance testing of the WTC floor system?
Q: How can we move the data collection process forward?
C: There is a lot of missing data for Projects 7 and 8. We need to continue pursuing the McKinsey data and 500 first responder interviews.
C: Wiss Janney Elstner (WJE) is trying to characterize all pieces of steel NIST has from the buildings. I suggest concentrating on pieces of interest from the impact zones and combining this information with information from the photo enhancement work. The combination would be very helpful to the analysis people. The WJE work is also very important. I also encourage frequent interaction among the staff working on Projects 2, 3, and 6.
Q: Is any of the missing information essential?
Q: It is important to think about a plan “B”. Is there a trade-off between contract versus in-house work? Some data we need up front. What about timing of solicitations?
Q: You stated in your presentation that vents and fire growth are not being addressed in the coupled analysis. Are venting and fire growth and spread being considered?
C: In summary, I have the following concerns:
PRESENTATION (pdf file)
Mr. Jason Averill described the purpose and tasks of Project 7. He stated that the purpose is to document the evacuation by collecting and analyzing information on occupant behavior, human factors, egress, emergency communications, and evacuation systems. The tasks to accomplish this purpose include data collection; methodology; review and analysis; and findings, conclusions, and recommendations. The focus of Mr. Averill’s presentation was on collecting data through first-person accounts. The methods he discussed include face-to-face interviews (up to 350 occupants of WTC 1, 2, and 7), telephone interviews (800 occupants of WTC 1 and 2), and focus group interviews (5 focus groups of about 10 people each).
Q: Has the draft survey instrument been completed?
Q: If it were one week after the event, would we need to seek Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) or Institutional Review Board (IRB) clearance?
C: I recommend getting a pre-blessed questionnaire for use in fact gathering at the scene of an accident.
*Recommendation: The Committee recommended NIST develop pre-approved instruments.
C: (NIST) We would be interested in any input from the Advisory Committee on this matter.
Q: What is the basis for the number of face-to-face versus telephone interviews?
Q: Why ask for unimpeded narrative without taping?
C: I recommend taping the interviews and, if possible, having them transcribed.
*Recommendation: The Committee recommended NIST tape and transcribe interviews taken as part of the WTC investigation.
Q: Why did you choose 10 as the number of persons in each focus group?
Q: Why wouldn’t you use both methods (telephone survey, face-to-face interviews) on the same groups?
Q: How will you establish a significant sample out of the 100,000 individuals present in the relevant universe?
Q: What egress issues do you expect to address?
Q: Despite the uniqueness of the buildings and the event, do you think you can get generalizable data?
Q: How does the flow of information work with a combination of staff and contractors?
Project 8: Fire Service Technologies and Guidelines
PRESENTATION (pdf file)
Mr. Randall Lawson presented the status of Project 8, which is focusing on evacuation and firefighting. The tasks include data collection, field interviews, and recreation and analysis. NIST has collected and is reviewing documents, photographs, videos, and audiotapes from the FDNY, NYPD, and the Port Authority Police Department. Mr. Lawson described the field interviews he is planning with FDNY, NYPD, Port Authority police, and security personnel. Both face-to-face and focus group interviews will be conducted. Different protocols will be used for the face-to-face interviews in order to obtain broader results. Some will be conducted using the semi-structured generic protocol; others will be conducted with the investigative lead-following protocol. Data analysis protocols will include computer-based tools used for Project 7, Fire Fighter Line-of-Duty Death & Injury Investigation from the International Association of Fire Fighters, and Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations from NFPA 921.
Q: The timing of the interviews is a concern. It is now more than two years after the event, people can forget or revise in their mind what happened. How do you address that?
Q: Will you be able to resolve time and space (location of individuals at specific times) inconsistencies?
Q: The use of NFPA 921 and IAFF protocols as shown in the presentation is good. Information may also be available through Columbia University who, as you know, is doing an evacuation study; they are willing to share data with NIST. How does the pro bono status of McKinsey’s work affect the city’s ability to share the McKinsey report?
The Advisory Committee members discussed the format and content of the annual report to Congress. Mr. Fitzgerald distributed a draft outline to the members for their review and comment.
Mr. Fitzgerald suggested that the report be readable and limited in the number of pages, with appendixes. It should be something that people can pick up and use. This is an Advisory Committee Report to Congress through NIST and the DOC. He proposed that the report cover the topics shown in the outline. The Advisory Committee members discussed the organization of the reportand writing assignments.
Q: Can you expand on the writing assignments?
Q: The intent of the legislation seems to be to comment on the implementation of the NCST Act.
Mr. Fitzgerald stated that there is general agreement on the format of the report.
*Recommendation: The Committee recommended members be assigned as leaders for each area of the report to prepare an initial draft.
Paul Fitzgerald volunteered to do the executive summary and Section 2 of the proposed outline.
C: (NIST) Any recommendations of the Advisory Committee presented in the report should be considered in an open session.
Q: Are these recommendations to Congress through NIST?
C: The Committee can make more than one report to Congress a year if it so desires. It can make recommendations and vote on them in any open session of the Committee.
C: The cycle of recommendations relative to funding cycles will be important. We need to understand how we can provide input to budget issues to ensure that the NCST investigations are adequately funded.
Q: Can we make recommendations in an open meeting? What about individual meetings? Are these considered Advisory Committee recommendations?
C: We have spent a lot of time on the NCST investigations, some on implementation. The concern is that there may be difficulty in implementing the act. I am concerned that criminal investigations may preclude the timeliness of the NCST investigations. The report to Congress should have something to say.
C: (NIST) The Chair could compile thoughts for a more focused discussion tomorrow.
C: The fundamental issue is the structure of the Advisory Committee and the act. The criminal investigation element will often be a hindrance. As you think of such issues, they should be discussed by the Advisory Committee and included in the report to Congress.
Public Comment Period
Mr. Fitzgerald stated the ground rules for public comments. Each speaker has 5 minutes, and members of the public may submit their comments in writing at the meeting or at any time. He called the first speaker to the podium, Dr. Robyn Gershon, who read a prepared statement.
Robyn Gershon, Columbia University
Q: (for Robyn Gershon) Did you interview building security people.
Mr. Fitzgerald called the next speaker, Mr. Francis Lombardi, who read a prepared statement.
Francis Lombardi, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
Jake Pauls, Consulting Services in Building Use and Safety
Monica Gabrielle, Skyscraper Safety Campaign
Mr. Fitzgerald called the next speaker, Mr. John Biechman, who read a prepared statement.
John Biechman, National Fire Protection Association
Comment Received Via Email
I have submitted numerous previous comments with respect to the disaster of September 11th, 2001. Allow me to briefly reiterate the sense of those comments for your consideration at their inclusion at the next NCST Advisory Committee meeting.
It is my belief, which is shared by many experts, that the innovative design of the WTC Towers resulted in their ability to sustain the massive damage and remain standing for nearly an hour each, thereby allowing thousands of individuals to escape the buildings. It is furthermore, my belief that buildings of more conventional post-beam-slab construction, which includes the vast majority of high-rise structures would have begun to collapse almost immediately faced with similar impacts.
Accordingly, if your investigation is to have any real significance and value, I belief it must include the performance of conventional type of structures under similar conditions as the type of testing and simulation studies that you intend and have conducted, with respect to the WTC towers.
Mr. Fitzgerald thanked the presenters, attendees, and speakers. He adjourned the meeting at 5:15 p.m.
Mr. Fitzgerald called the meeting to order at 9:00 a.m.
Planning for Advisory Committee Annual Report to Congress (Continued from Previous Day)
Mr. Fitzgerald continued the discussion of preparing the annual report to Congress from the prior day’s session.
Q: What does our report consist of?
The following writing assignments were agreed upon by the members:
Mr. Fitzgerald listed the following issues for further discussion by the Committee:
1. Revisit public comments regarding activities, authority, role of the Committee (Jake Pauls)
Project 3: Analysis of Structural Steel
PRESENTATION (pdf file)
Dr. Frank Gayle discussed the progress of the review and analysis of the steel recovered from WTC 1 and 2. With assistance from the Structural Engineering Association of New York and many others, NIST has collected 236 pieces of steel, including perimeter panel sections, box beams/core columns, wide flange trusses, and bowtie pieces of exterior walls. Through extensive cataloging, NIST has identified perimeter panel samples of all 14 grades (i.e., yield strength) specified in structural steel drawings, which are available for testing. Core column samples are available of two grades (36 and 42 ksi) of both box and wide flange columns, configurations that represent 99% of core columns in both towers. In addition, Dr. Gayle’s investigation team has been reviewing specifications and steel supplier documents, which allow estimation of typical properties when specified minimum yield strength is known.
NIST is currently conducting an analysis of the steel to document failure mechanisms and damage. The analyses will provide observations and statistics of repeated patterns of post-impact failures/fractures of bolts, welds, truss seats, spandrel splices, and column splices, as well as fire damage described as a function of location (in or away from the impact zone or fires).
Dr. Gayle also described the tests being performed to determine the mechanical properties of the steel: room temperature tensile, high strain rate, and high temperature tests. The room temperature tensile tests are being conducted on columns, spandrels, truss components, seats, channels, plates, welds, and bolts to compare with specified properties and provide data for characterizing baseline structural performance of the towers. The high strain rate test results will be used in the analysis of aircraft impact damage and the analysis of most probable structural collapse sequence. Those tests are being conducted on column, spandrel, and bolt specimens. Aircraft impact led to strain rates estimated at 100 to 1,000 per second. The high temperature tests are being conducted to analyze the structural response to fires. Dr. Gayle presented preliminary results; tests are still ongoing.
Q: (NIST) Are we addressing notch sensitivity of the bolts?
C: In your comparison of strain rates, you stated that the area under the curve is related to the energy absorbed. However, that energy may not be uniformly distributed.
C: Behavior will depend on the geometry of the detail when concentrating on fracture. One can go from a uniaxial stress state with high energy absorption to a triaxial stress state with low energy absorption that would change the failure mode greatly. WJE should document impact zone pieces first. Also, the massive amount of data available is a concern. Nothing has yet been done on the weld metal. Task leaders should identify the data needed to minimize the amount of work in the interest of time and ensure that the key data is understood so that the other projects know what data is available and Project 3 knows what data is needed to support the other projects.
*Recommendation: The Committee recommended task leaders identify the necessary input that they need to accomplish their objectives, and where that need crosses over into another task, make sure that the appropriate task leader is aware of the need and providesthe necessary data.
Q: (NIST) Can you think of situations where triaxial stress might be important?
Q: Weren’t you attempting to characterize the maximum temperature of the steel?
Q: Are you looking at the effects of insulation on the steel?
Project 6: Fire Endurance Testing of WTC Tower Typical Floor Construction
PRESENTATION (pdf file)
Dr. John Gross briefed the meeting attendees on the planned testing of floor assemblies used in the WTC towers. The test results will provide fire endurance ratings to evaluate test scale, fireproofing thickness, and thermal restraint. Three tests will be performed: 17-foot span assembly, thermally restrained; 35-foot span assembly, thermally restrained; and 35 foot span assembly, thermally unrestrained. The tests will be conducted in accordance with ASTM E119, Standard Test Methods for Fire Tests of Building Construction and Materials. Dr. Gross discussed the selection of key test parameters of fireproofing thickness and steel specification. At issue is whether the planned tests should address the fire endurance rating of the original specifications or the as-built conditions.
Q: In the 35-foot furnace, will you be testing a long, narrow floor assembly?
Q: Can you describe the restraint?
Q: Were the 1999 Port Authority guidelines on fireproofing thicknesses a requirement? How much work was done to upgrade fireproofing and what was the quality of the work?
C: Recommend re-creating the heat resistant factors present on the affected floors as they existed on September 11, 2001, including primer. Aircraft impact probably affected the insulation.
*Recommendation: The Committee recommended the closest representation of as-built conditions be tested, including primer paint, ensuring that the properties of the steel being tested match the steelthat was in the buildings as close as possible.
Q: Can you clarify the specified condition tests and why they may be useful to the WTC investigation?
Q: Is there any indication that standard practice for supplying structural steel is that the contractor exceeds the minimum requirements? Is a test of reality (as-built condition) appropriate to address actual practice?
Q: What is the most important property—that would govern what is needed from the test?
Q: (NIST) What about elevated temperature properties? How would composition differences affect the properties of the steel?
C: (NIST) These tests are not meant to perfectly reproduce WTC conditions. The results will allow us to extrapolate to conditions from data on rods and angles with varying levels of insulation that will be present in the furnace during tests.
Q: Most structural engineers are satisfied to accept higher strength materials over the minimum required except in high seismic areas. Fireproofing is assumed to keep temperatures of the steel relatively low. I am impressed with the approach of the WTC investigation team: begin with components, then address connections and assemblies. As you get to higher loads, you begin to lose confidence in the models. Is SAP 2000 good enough for this type of analysis? We have always looked to the defense and aerospace industry for more sophisticated analysis tools.
C: Substitution for as-built condition is okay assuming that performance of the materials is similar. An additional test might be useful with lower strength steel (the minimum specified) and different fireproofing thickness. There is almost no chance of replicating the fire conditions. Coupons can be used to address adhesion and cohesion properties of fireproofing (on both primed and unprimed steel) and response to shock and vibration.
C: I support the suggestion to add an additional test. This should be a recommendation of the Advisory Committee. There will be very heavy scrutiny of this work. We need to make sure the t’s are crossed and the i’s dotted.
*Recommendation: The Committee recommended NIST consider whether an additional test is needed using lower strength steel (A36 or close substitute if unavailable) and different fireproofing thicknesses that could have been present in the buildings basedon the specifications.
Q: In your background research, have you encountered tests similar to the 35-foot scale?
C: Ensure that the operating conditions of the furnaces are good. I recommend that you be on the ground frequently during specimen preparation and testing. Assemblies, restraints, and welding need to be as close as possible for the 17-foot and 35-foot tests for the results to be comparable. A test with A36 steel is important. If funds are not available for an additional test, perhaps literature can provide data.
*Recommendation: The Committee recommended NIST be on-site during specimen preparation and testing to check compliance with test specifications, including assemblies, restraints, and welding.
C: It should be possible to look at A36 steel within these constraints.
Q: What is the status of specimen fabrication?
C: A572 steel may be difficult to obtain.
Q: (NIST) Should we still do a test with 0.5 inch thickness of fireproofing?
Q: (NIST) Should an additional test be done at the 17-foot or 35-foot length if such a test is possible?
C: I recommend that tests should be investigative (as-built) and include primer. NIST should also conduct an additional 17-foot test with A36 steel or a reasonable substitute at specified conditions.
C: A lot of calculations can be performed to look at the effect of insulation thickness. You may not get your money’s worth out of an additional test. The value of the additional test is not obvious.
PRESENTATION (pdf file)
Dr. William Grosshandler is leading the NCST investigation of The Station Nightclub fire that occurred in West Warwick, Rhode Island on February 20, 2003. He presented a briefing on the status of the investigation.
NIST is working with local, state, and Federal officials in this investigation. Dr. Grosshandler introduced Chris Porreca of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). ATF and NIST are currently working on a memorandum of understanding between the two agencies. The Station Nightclub fire is the first time the two agencies have come together under the NCST Act.
Mr. Porreca described how ATF responds to incidents at a local level. If additional expertise is required, response can be expanded to a regional level. If expertise beyond that available at the regional level is needed, the response can be expanded to a national level. The determination of expertise needed is made at the scene. Agencies arriving at the scene of an incident are not always on an equal basis. Criminal investigation takes precedence. In the case of ATF, part of their charter is to support local authorities in investigations. ATF is involved with the investigation of the Station Nightclub fire at the invitation of the Rhode Island Attorney General. Following his remarks, Mr. Porreca left the meeting.
Dr. Grosshandler clarified that the NCST investigation is being conducted independently of the criminal investigation; per the NCST Act, investigative priority is relinquished to the criminal investigation being conducted by the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office. Approximately 717 items of evidence (including items held at NIST request) are being held in a warehouse in Rhode Island. Access efforts are on hold pending Federal court’s resolution of jurisdictional issues in civil action.
The NCST investigation team has made progress establishing initial conditions at the time of the fire, particularly the dimensional floor plan; the locations of vents, doors, and windows; and ceiling height above the stage and in the sunroom. In addition, NIST is gathering data on the ceiling tiles, wall lining, and types of acoustical foam.
A series of tests are in progress on a variety of materials to develop source term data for modeling and to assess material burning behavior to determine a correlation to the materials in the nightclub. Plans include: cone calorimeter, corner experiments, ignition experiments, and compartment experiments. Small-scale tests are being conducted on different types of acoustical foam for heat-release properties.
Dr. Grosshandler stated that the investigation will also analyze occupant behavior and egress. Preliminary evacuation calculations have been completed using evacuation models. A solicitation has been announced for an egress study.
Q: When there is a suspicion of criminal activity, what limits the ability of agencies to share information.
C: The NFPA Tentative Interim Amendment (TIA) process covers not only clubs, but all assembly occupancies.
Q: What was the occupancy of the Station?
Q: What is the range of heat release of the foam?
Q: Can information on the geometry of the club be recreated if it is not available from the Attorney General?
Q: It is a good idea to test a range of materials. Do you plan to conduct systematic interviews of survivors?
Q: Does investigative priority mean that NIST cannot pursue interviews when a criminal investigation is under way?
Q: I’m not sure about the public meeting. What is the intent of the public meeting?
Q: How do you deal with bias in interviews?
*Recommendation: The Committee recommended NIST and DOC study and advise at the December meeting of the Advisory Committee how investigators can carry out their work with state, local, and Federal agencies in the context of a criminal investigation to gain access to critical data.
C: It would be useful to investigate how other agencies have dealt with this issue, such as NTSB.
Q: Is there subpoena power in the NCST Act?
Q: The fire at the Station Nightclub started in two locations. Does the NIST simulation allow for the fire to start in two locations?
C: With regard to the pyrotechnics, the term “15 foot throw” refers to the point where you would not be burned by the pyrotechnic. The throw is probably about 12 feet.
Q: Do we know the cause of death of the people who died at the club?
Q: Crowd crush is a critical issue. Can we recommend a research project?
*Recommendation: The Committee recommended the initiation of a project to look at the phenomena of crowd crush as seen in the Chicago nightclub and The Station nightclub incidents.
The Advisory Committee members discussed the issue of quantitative versus qualitative criteria for use in decision-making to launch an NCST investigation. At the previous day’s session, a member introduced a recommendation that more prescriptive criteria be considered.
C: The criteria for deployment as currently envisioned are too broad. Higher level expectation is necessary. Recognize the need for discretion in making the decision to launch an NCST investigation. Defining the criteria will facilitate public understanding of when an investigation will be launched.
C: Last night, I looked at the number of structural failures that would have warranted an NCST investigation. Since 1978, there have only been about 10 failures that would have been investigated under the NCST Act. In addition, I could think of about four fires—about 14 events in 25 years.
C: Identifying the types of incidents that NCST will respond to may facilitate getting funding and support.
C: I would like to make the criteria quantitative, but how do you cover all possibilities? I suggest keeping the criteria as they are, but including some historical examples. I don’t know how to be quantitative without being exclusive.
Q: Are construction failures included or only failures of as-built buildings?
C: (NIST) Other trigger events could be considered. The Oakland Hills fire is an example. The urban-wild land interface is expanding. This issue is extremely important for a residential area.
C: Coming back to the proposed rule, suggest utilization of forensic experts to assist the Director of NIST in making the decision to launch an NCST investigation.
*Recommendation: The Committee recommended NIST review the urban wildland interface as a possible condition for deployment of an NCST investigation team and include it as an item for discussion at the next Committee meeting.
Review of Public Comments
The Advisory Committee members reviewed and discussed comments presented by the public at the meeting on August 26, 2003. Questions and comments were made by members as to how to address specific comments.
Mr. Fitzgerald first reviewed comments by Jake Pauls, who stated that he served on advisory committees in the past and recommends standing subcommittees.
C: (NIST) A subcommittee of a Federal Advisory Committee is also an advisory committee. Meetings of the subcommittees must be announced fifteen days in advance in the Federal Register. Any closed sessions of the subcommittee must be cleared subject to the same rules as the Advisory Committee.
Mr. Fitzgerald stated that Mr. Pauls also raised a concern about the selection of the contractor hired to support Project 7 in conducting surveys and interviews of the occupants, family members, and first responders.
Q: I have seen the solicitation, but have not seen the instrument used for selection of the contractor. Are these documents accessible?
Mr. Fitzgerald asked the Committee members whether anyone had a concern with the contractor that was hired to assist Project 7. Dr. Tierney responded that NIST should be comfortable with the contractor they selected. She stated that the contractor is strong in all appropriate areas and has an excellent field staff. In addition, Dr. Tierney noted that the contractor specializes in locating hard-to-find people.
*Recommendation: None. The Committee agrees that NIST has appropriately selected the contractor for this effort.
Mr. Fitzgerald summarized the concerns raised by Ms. Gabrielle about the role of the Advisory Committee. She is concerned that the WTC investigation will result in another BPAT study. She feels that the first responsibility of the Advisory Committee is to the public and that the role of the Advisory Committee is not simply to be a spokesperson or a mouthpiece for NIST. She also expressed concern over the fact that the Advisory Committee members were required to sign confidentiality agreements.
C: We are conducting meetings in the open. Documents that the Advisory Committee produces go into the public record.
C: It is unfair to compare NIST and the Advisory Committee to the BPAT study. I got the first call about the BPAT. As it grew, I pulled out. NIST does not have an axe to grind. They are not competitors. The staff are here to do the right thing. They are candid about the need for outside help. I think that we’re on the right track.
C: I think we need to respond.
C: I have a sense that the concern is that we are not readily accessible, geographically removed from the communities involved.
C: (NIST) My experience on similar issues is that some other bodies acknowledge receipt of the comments by letter and thank the commenter for their input. If we disagree to a factual error, we should make a factual correction related to the core of the organization. Stick to the facts to avoid conflict.
C: (NIST) It is possible that the Committee decides to have only open meetings. Open meetings may be the best way.
C: As to one of Ms. Gabrielle’s recommendations: I recommend that a complete transcript be made of all Committee meetings. Meetings should be taped (audio or videotape meetings).
*Recommendation: The Committee recommended NIST record on audiotape and archive future meetings of the NCST Advisory Committee.
Q: How can we get the necessary data for the WTC investigation? Ms. Gabrielle’s suggestion: hold a public meeting with testimony under oath. Use NIST’s subpoena authority. Is it time for the Advisory Committee to meet in New York City?
Q: Do we as a Committee want to recommend a hearing in New York City?
*Recommendation: The Committee recommended the December 2003 meeting be an open meeting held in New York City.
C: I think we should follow Mike Rubin’s advice. At the same time, develop an alternate plan for getting critical data not later than the December meeting.
Mr. Fitzgerald finished the discussion by stating that he had a selection of projects [for the Committee] to undertake. He will circulate a draft to the Committee members and provide it to Dr. Snell. The Committee members plan to discuss this at the December meeting.
At this point, Mr. Fitzgerald offered Ms. Gabrielle the opportunity to respond to the Committee’s discussion of her statement from the previous day. She stated that some of her comments were taken out of context. One of her concerns is that the Advisory Committee may simply become a spokesperson for NIST. She believes that the Committee did a fantastic job yesterday. Yet she questioned the Committee on how it would clarify its role to the public. She feels that the public should be able to get more involved in the debate. Ms. Gabrielle emphasized that the link on NIST’s web site to the Committee’s email address needs to be more prominent and easier to find. The concern is that there is not an easy way for the public to contact the Committee. She believes there needs to be some separation between the Advisory Committee and NIST. The public needs to feel comfortable that its comments are being heard by the Committee. Ms. Gabrielle said that NIST has been very responsive to the Skyscraper Safety Campaign.
C: (NIST) I would like to say that you have not received any special treatment from NIST. It is important that anyone can talk to us. We talk to everyone. We have an open door.
Monica Gabrielle: The role of the Advisory Committee and its relationship to NIST needs to be clarified. Will its suggestions be implemented?
C: (NIST) The law has put the Advisory Committee in an advisory role.
C: (NIST) We are obligated to respond to recommendations. NIST will follow up on all recommendations. We have prepared an updated summary list of documents that will be posted on the NIST WTC web site.
Next Meeting Date
At this time, the Advisory Committee members agreed to keep the planned December 2-3, 2003, dates for the next meeting. All members can attend, with the exception of Dave Collins, who has a conflict with the NFPA conference.
Hratch Semerjian: The director appreciates the hard work of the Committee. NIST has a long history of responding to advisory committees. There will be a response to your recommendations and vigorous discussions within NIST. Clearly this is an important effort that demands our attention.
Motion to adjourn meeting was agreed to.
Meeting adjourned at 2:30 p.m.