The Act, signed into law on Oct. 1, 2002, by President Bush, authorizes the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to establish teams to investigate building failures. These authorities are modeled after those of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for investigating transportation accidents. The NCST Act gives NIST the responsibility to dispatch teams of experts, where appropriate and practical, within 48 hours after major building disasters. Under the law, the NIST Director, in consultation with the U.S. Fire Administration and other appropriate federal agencies, maintains a standing advisory committee of as many as 12 persons to advise him or her on carrying out the Act, and to review procedures and reports issued. The panel is known as the National Construction Safety Team (NCST) Advisory Committee.
If a NCST Act Team is established, an investigation is expected to take months to years to complete. Previous investigations have taken at least two years to complete.
NIST has completed three NCST technical investigations and is currently conducting two additional studies. NIST investigated the building collapses of the World Trade Center, issuing a final report on the collapse of the Twin Towers in 2005 and a final report on WTC Building 7 in 2008. NIST investigated the Station nightclub fire in West Warwick, Rhode Island, where 100 people perished attending a concert, issuing a final report in 2005. NIST investigated the Joplin, Missouri, tornado in May 2011, which was the single deadliest and costliest tornado in U.S. history. NIST is currently investigating the effects of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico, with a progress report released in January 2021, as well as a technical investigation on the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside, Florida.