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NCST Advisory Committee Mtg. Minutes of August 26-27, 2003

The National Construction Safety Team Advisory Committee
National Institute of Standards and Technology 

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

Opening Remarks
Dr. Arden L. Bement, Jr., Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology

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.)

NCST Overview and Discussion
Dr. Jack E. Snell, Director, Building and Fire Research Laboratory

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:

  • Become a well-functioning team
  • Advise on the procedures for implementing the act, including the criteria for launching teams
  • Flesh out an outline and approach for providing advice to the director on the two investigations now under way
  • Develop an outline and approach for the Committee's annual report to Congress—keeping in mind the requirements of the act as outlined earlier.

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:

  • Conduct the investigation
  • Report findings and recommendations
  • Conduct research and other activities to enable and ensure implementation of the findings and recommendations
  • Keep track of the consequences of those activities

Dr. Snell then presented a briefing on the Research and Development (R&D) Program and the Dissemination and Technical Assistance Program (DTAP).


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?
A: NIST has been talking to the principal groups involved to develop a strategy for moving forward with recommendations. In the next few weeks, NIST will contract with the National Institute for Building Sciences (NIBS) to identify stakeholders to develop a strategy to implement recommendations. We will begin this work in the next few weeks.
Q: What was the response of the code organizations?
A: The code organizations are very supportive and look forwardto working with NIST on all of these steps.

Back to agenda

Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) and Criteria for Closed Session
Mr. Michael R. Rubin, Counsel for the National Institute of Standards and Technology

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:

  • (4) Disclose trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential
  • (5) Involve accusing any person of a crime, or formally censuring any person
  • (9) Disclose information the premature disclosure of which would (B) in the case of any agency, be likely to significantly frustrate implementation of a proposed agency action, except that subparagraph (B) shall not apply in any instance where the agency has already disclosed to the public the content or nature of its proposed action, or where the agency is required by law to make such disclosure on its own initiative prior to taking final agency action on such proposal
  • (10) specifically concern the agency's issuance of a subpoena, or the agency's participation in a civil action or proceeding, an action in a foreign court or international tribunal, or an arbitration, or the initiation, conduct, or disposition by the agency of a particular case of formal agency adjudication pursuant to the procedures in section 554 of this title or otherwise involving a determination on the record after opportunity for a hearing.

NIST can foresee the possibility that it might seek authority under 5 U.S.C. 552b(c) (3), and (7) to close meetings of the Advisory Committee:

  • (3) Disclose matters specifically exempted from disclosure by statute, provided that such statue (A) requires that the matters be withheld from the public in such a manner as to leave no discretion on the issue, or (B) established particular criteria for withholding or refers to particular types of matters to be withheld
  • (7) Disclose investigatory records compiled for law enforcement purposes, or information which if written would be contained in such records, but only to the extent that the production of such records or information would (A) interfere with enforcement proceedings, (B) deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication, (C) constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, (D) disclose the identity of a confidential source and, in the case of a record compiled by a criminal law enforcement authority in the course of a criminal investigation, or by an agency conducting a lawful national security intelligence investigation, confidential information furnished only by the confidential source, (E) disclose investigative techniques and procedures, or (F) endanger the life or physical safety of law enforcement personnel

The most important thing is to let the system work for us with the understanding that NIST has to follow procedures and would have to go through both the DOC determination process and the public notice process to get any proposed meeting closed. NIST tried to anticipate reasons for closing these meetings and more reasons may come up.

Q: Can you expand on criminal investigation information? How does it apply to state and local authorities?
A: It's possible that some agencies will share information with us during an NCST investigation that is related to a criminal investigation. We would have to close the meeting to discuss that information. At the present time, we haven't received any such information so this issue has not yet come up.

Q: Under (9)(B), where does reviewing and commenting on the NIST draft report fall?
A: An exemption is found in (c)(4). However, the DOC view is that review of a draft report is not likely to frustrate agency action.

Q: Draft reports are held confidential. We are asked to comment. When we discuss these comments, the reports are no longer considered confidential?
A: We are working with DOC to address this concern.

Q: How many people are needed to form subcommittees—1, 2, 3?
A: We have not formed any subcommittees yet, but a subcommittee can be any number of people, but of course more than one. The recommendations and work of the Committee are consensus advice. Work toward reaching a consensus is not necessarily public and may involve individual discussions; the ultimate consensus building is expected to occur in the open for the public to review. The World Trade Center disaster was a once in a century event. Everything we do will be scrutinized. The kinds of issues being faced defy generalizations. When we get to specifics, we will need to discuss and plan accordingly and work together to allow the Committee to do its work within the constraintsof the law.
Q: The Committee members are broadly experienced. If two members meet with a project team, is that a subcommittee? Does it have to be advertised in the Federal Register?
A: When individual members of the Committee meet with project teams, they may be learning, not performing a Committee functionand not working on building a consensus.

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?
A: Drafting of the Committee's report can be parceled out, but consensus advice must come in a public meeting. Adraft of the report must be presented in a public session.

Advisory Committee members were encouraged to contact Mr. Rubin with any other questions about the function of the Committee.

NCST Act Requirements and Discussion
Dr. James E. Hill, Deputy Director, Building and Fire Research Laboratory


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?
A: The answer to both questions is yes.

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.
A: We are building relationships with other agencies. Credentials for investigators are also being considered. We are building relationships with ATF and other critical agencies to help investigators get access to sites.

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?
A: That is an excellent point. It is not something that we have discussed yet.
C: However, the NCST Act is clear on the point that criminal action takes precedence over NCST investigations.
C: (NIST) NIST relinquishes authority in a criminal investigation. Constitutional law addresses search and seizure. If we are denied access, procedures include constitutional provisions for gaining entry. To the earlier question about disclosure of information about faulty equipment, NIST would not wait to communicate information if it was in the interest of public safety and we were convinced of the matter. There may be more ambiguity involved, however, and we need to be careful not to draw false conclusions based on preliminary information.
C: (NIST) NIST has made public the preliminary findings in the ongoing NCST investigations.

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)?
A: NIST has some authority to protect confidential information.
Q: (Restating previous question) NIST may obtain information it wants to protect. How do we square FOIA with the need to protect data?
A: There are three levels of protection in the NCST Act. We won't make the data available until the conclusion of the investigation. We may want to protect voluntarily supplied safety information. Dr . Bement would need to make that determination. We might want to have conversations with police and firefighters that we would want to protect, under the premise that without such protection, it would jeopardize their desire to provide such information. Information that directly affects public safety we will protect.

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.
A: We are not planning to state a number for loss of life in the procedures for triggering an 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: (NIST) Would a prescriptive approach be for the benefit of the public, NIST, or both?
C: A prescriptive approach will help the public, with expectations for when NIST will conduct NCST investigations.
C: (NIST) Implicit in the first bullet (slide 6) is a number. We are considering the incidents where a relatively small number of people died, but there is the possibility of a substantial loss of life nationwide under similar circumstances. We are open for suggestions.

Q: On slide 8, where do interior finishing materials fall under the criteria?
A: The list on slide 8 is not meant to be all-inclusive. It was an attempt to capture the things that might trigger an NCST investigation. Clearly, materials that are determined to be harmful would have to be considered.

Q: How easy will it be to determine whether a building failed at less than the design value?
A: It may be impossible to make such a determination immediately. It could take some time to make a decision.
C: In most building failures, it really does not take that long and the reasons for structural failures can be determined quickly.
Q: Are there situations where determining if a building failed at less than the design value would be difficult?
A: (Committee Member) Yes, if failure occurs close to the design loads for the building, making this determination becomes more difficult.

Q: The intent of the criteria presented was to include failures during construction and in service?
A: The NCST Act does cover failures during construction. OSHA also has a responsibility and has the lead in construction failures. We are working with OSHA, but do not have a signed agreement with them at this point.
C: (NIST) Generally, OSHA handles construction failures. There may be times in the future when NIST will participate with OSHA in an NCST investigation.

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.
C: I understand the need for discretion. However, there needs to be some level of understanding in the public for when an NCST investigation would be launched.

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?
A: An NCST investigation is not limited by the members of the team itself. Additional expertise can be acquired from other sources as needed. Consider the team in an organizational context; once it starts, others can be brought in as needed. The composition of a team does not have to remain fixed. It may change over time as an investigation progresses.

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?
A: The topic of FEMA's BPAT efforts was not discussed at the meeting.
C: The current FEMA administration position is that they willnever do another BPAT study.

Status of WTC Investigation and Discussion
Dr. S. Shyam Sunder, Chief, Materials and Construction Research Division

Fire Test of WTC Office Workstation Video
[Descriptive Link]
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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?
A: Three.
Q: How were organizational conflict of interest issues dealt with?
A: There were no organizational conflicts of interest disclosed by the selected vendor. They are not a party to the investigation, nor are they a target of the investigation. Their technical proposal received the highest ranking of the proposals received. Further, they had existing facilities available and are able to perform 17-foot and 35-foot tests. A full-scale test of a 60-foot floor assembly with uncertainty in controlling the fire conditions was considered too risky.

Q: How can we move the data collection process forward?
A: We are continuing to pursue the original contract specifications for the WTC towers and the construction and maintenance logs, but this information is not considered crucial because we already have a lot of this information. The 9-1-1 tapes and logs and the transcripts from about 500 first responder interviews are critical. We will ultimately need to go public if we cannot get this information. Descriptions of partitions and furnishings will be a bigger issue for WTC 7 than for the towers. However, we will be able to do a credible job on WTC 7 since we have cooperation from a tenant that occupied 26 floors, have structural data, and have data on the fuel tanks used in the building.

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.
A: NIST met with the commissioners of both the New York Police Department (NYPD) and the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) last week. We will need to reach agreements on the use of this information. There are some legitimate concerns.

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.
C: (NIST) We will focus WJE on these immediate needs. We will also work to improve interaction among project team staff.

Q: Is any of the missing information essential?
A: Yes. Tapes of 9-1-1 calls and transcripts of the 500 interviews of first responders.
Q: Is there a plan "B"? What do you think is in this information?
A: It may be very difficult to complete certain aspects of the investigation without this information. We do not know what information is contained in these sources.
Q: Could the interviews be recreated?
A: This would be harder than it might seem. The information is now dated and the interviews were done on a voluntary basis.

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?
A: We defined the plan first and then identified in-house expertise and facilities. We could hire or build facilities. Hiring is difficult due to the duration of the investigation. For example, aircraft impact analysis, NIST did not have in-house expertise to do this type of work, so we went outside to companies who do this kind of work. For the E119 fire endurance testing, NIST lacked facilities in-house to perform the testing.
Q: Interaction of fire and structural analyses needs to be a two-way process. This is difficult to do if the work is divided between contractors and in-house personnel.
A: Your point is well taken and we have started a parallel effort to develop simplified structural-fire models to integrate and test coupled failure analyses. The challenge to this team is to come back in six months with results.

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?
A: We are starting with the damaged building ventilation paths based on photographic information. The information is being fed into the other projects up to structural collapse. Project 2 will provide additional information on the condition of the building. This information will become input to the fire model and then to the structural collapse model. We are not looking at ventilation changes due to the collapse itself.
Q: How do you do the other parts of the analysis if you do not deal with the vents?
A: We will identify boundary conditions (e.g., floor collapse), the structural modeling may show that a floor collapsed and that will be fed into the fire model.
C: You have to take the end conditions into account at the beginning.
A: We are looking at particular points in time. Fire dynamics models are a "halfway house" between uncoupled and coupled models. The Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS) only works on surfaces large enough to resolve. We would be at a loss if we had to predict loss of windows. All FDS calculations have a minimum resolution of 50 cm. Trusses are smaller than that. We are adapting the state of the art to the investigation.
A: The good news is that we were successful in the NIST Director's competence initiative to address the underpinning science to provide a more rigorous basis for the future.

C: In summary, I have the following concerns:

  • Concern about the overall deadline.
  • Absence of information in some cases and information overload in others.
  • Prioritize what information needs are critical. For example, 9-1-1 tapes were mentioned.
  • Contingency planning needs to take place now.
  • Experimental risk—whenever you are doing experiments, there is the potential for surprise results.
  • Analytic risk—coupled analysis; complicated by the use of internal and external resources, becomes a communications issue.
  • Need to streamline requirements as much as possible.

Is the original goal date still realistic?
A: We intend to complete the WTC investigation in that timeframe. We are working with limited funding and have made promises on when the investigation will be complete. We understand that it is going to be tight. Our initial two-year schedule was an estimate when we had much less information than we do now.
C: The Advisory Committee will comment on the schedule in its report.

Project 7: Occupant Behavior, Egress, and Emergency Communications
Mr. Jason D. Averill, WTC Investigation, Project 7 Leader


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?
A: Yes. It can be made available to the Advisory Committee.

Q: If it were one week after the event, would we need to seek Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) or Institutional Review Board (IRB) clearance?
A: PRA pertains to survey research. It does not pertain to nonstructured interviews of individuals. IRB review pertains to human subjects research and is meant to protect the persons involved. In the future, it will depend on what we hope to get from interviews. NIST has decided to follow the Common Rule for Human Subjects Research. It is possible to design around PRA.

C: I recommend getting a pre-blessed questionnaire for use in fact gathering at the scene of an accident.
A: We are trying to distinguish between interviews that are unstructured as opposed to structured interviews. Such unstructured interviews are outside of the purview of the PRA. However, we are still concerned about the Common Rule.
C: It is necessary to have an appropriate level of sensitivity. Some questions will be consistent among investigations. It is very difficult if you're trying to gather time-sensitive information and three to six months is required to get approval. The investigation team will be subject to the vagaries of other people who have done interviews if they cannot interview people at the scene.
C: Get pre-approval of instruments. I have been involved with other investigations where we had IRB approved instruments done in advance of the event of a similar 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?
A: For the telephone interviews, the number of interviews were determined based on the population size required to reach a desired confidence level. For example, a 95% confidence level. For the face-to-face interviews, we will use a snowball quota approach to identify respondents. As we conduct the face-to-face interviews, we will continue the interviews until we reach data saturation. The number of face-to-face interviews was estimated based upon taking a significant fraction of the selected group.
C: (NIST) Family members will be handled differently than other groups. The technical probes will differ for the other groups, but the methodology will be the same.

Q: Why ask for unimpeded narrative without taping?
A: We are considering audiotaping.

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?
A: The actual size of the focus groups may vary.
C: Your contractor is probably aware of the guidelines for focus groups.
A: We are looking at inviting a larger number of people to ensure that we get enough respondents. We will recruit 10 persons for each focus group with an expectation that 6 to 8 will participate.

Q: Why wouldn't you use both methods (telephone survey, face-to-face interviews) on the same groups?
A: Telephone survey will provide data that will be generalizable to the entire population of WTC 1 and 2. Face-to-face interviews will focus on narrative details. We will make an effort not to burden the same people.

Q: How will you establish a significant sample out of the 100,000 individuals present in the relevant universe?
A: The issue is whether the 100,000 names on the WTC badge list contains the occupants who were present. One estimate suggests that about 14% were present that day. How to identify the occupants who survived? We will use a scientific sampling method to identify occupants by zone. We will get phone numbers for those persons and call. If they were an occupant, they will be added to the group. Fourteen percent is not a formal number. It is a working number. The statistical process will hold true regardless of the number.

Q: What egress issues do you expect to address?
A: We hope to be able to contribute to the thoughts about the size of staircases, phased versus full building evacuation, pre-movement time, and a better understanding about whatpeople think about before they evacuate.

Q: Despite the uniqueness of the buildings and the event, do you think you can get generalizable data?
A: Yes.

Q: How does the flow of information work with a combination of staff and contractors?
A: NuStats will assist NIST with the analysis of the data. The outside experts we have hired will also assist NIST withanalysis of data.

Project 8: Fire Service Technologies and Guidelines
Mr. J. R. Lawson, WTC Investigation, Project 8 Leader


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?
A: We have a significant amount of data available to use for correlation. We would very much like to get access to the 500 interviews already conducted. Cognitive interviewing techniques and other methods will be used to address the timing issue.
C: The data that NIST needs will be very valuable (500 interviews, McKinsey data) to anchor new data.
C: (NIST) The McKinsey work was done pro bono for New YorkCity. The city prefers that NIST work with them, not with McKinsey.

Q: Will you be able to resolve time and space (location of individuals at specific times) inconsistencies?
A: We will attempt to set up a chronological order of events and a database to resolve such concerns.

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?
A: We are working with the city on this issue. Plan "B" ifthe city does not voluntarily release report data will be difficult.

Planning for Advisory Committee Annual Report to Congress
Mr. Paul M. Fitzgerald, Committee Chair

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?
A: (Committee Member) How we organize the report and its length are open to discussion. I believe the report should be about 9 to 10 pages in length. Advisory Committee members may want to comment based on their background.

Q: The intent of the legislation seems to be to comment on the implementation of the NCST Act.
A: (Committee Member) The report is strictly a Committee report. I agree that implementation of the NCST Act should be the focus of the report.

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?
A: (Committee Member) Yes. NIST will be interested in the report, but audience is the congressional committees. Dr. Bement has a set of questions that DOC and NIST need to hear back from you on. We will also want to comment on advice from the Committee.
C: Some of the comments today are recommendations to 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: I looked at the report as a summation of the important things done by the Advisory Committee during the past year.
C: What we did today was give NIST advice.
C: (NIST) As advisors, you should give NIST consensus advice.
C: We are giving recommendations to NIST throughout the year. The report to Congress is how the Committee feels implementation of the NCST Act was done during the year.

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.
C: We need to fund core competencies, but the need to fund extraordinary events will need to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Q: Can we make recommendations in an open meeting? What about individual meetings? Are these considered Advisory Committee recommendations?
A: We welcome all input, whether it is informal individual comments or group consensus recommendations. We owe you a response as to how we address your comments and 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.
C: I will try to get these items out to the members so that they can be discussed in an open session of our next meeting. We need to have the content of the report complete by the December meeting. Tomorrow we will discuss writing assignments. There are many other things besides criminal investigations that could delay access to a site that will need to be considered.

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
STATEMENT (pdf file)

Q: (for Robyn Gershon) Did you interview building security people.
A: No, though some floor wardens were interviewed. Even some of them did not know about all three emergency exits from the buildings. Our study was primarily an occupational safety and health study.

Mr. Fitzgerald called the next speaker, Mr. Francis Lombardi, who read a prepared statement.

Francis Lombardi, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

  • I am Frank Lombardi, the Chief Engineer of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
  • I am a survivor of the February 26, 1993, bombing and the September 11, 2001, WTC attacks.
  • Thank you and good afternoon.
  • Port Authority staff suffered terribly on September 11. This proud family of public employees lost 84 of its own in the attacks on the World Trade Center.
  • Despite the overwhelming grief felt by PA staff, they literally dusted themselves off that day and went right back to work.
  • Through their remarkable efforts in the days and weeks that followed, they provided calm in a time of chaos and security in a time of uncertainty, helping with rescue and recovery efforts and keeping vital public transportation facilities open and safe.
  • I am here to express support for NIST's on-going investigation of the WTC buildings' collapse on September 11, 2001.
  • We must learn from the past in order to plan for what will come. We are hopeful that the outcome of the current investigation may yield insights that will help both the government and private sector improve upon existing building and fire safety standards.
  • I believe that NIST is the appropriate federal agency to conduct this investigation. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has and will continue to cooperate with NIST in this effort and will participate to the extent that we are able. I believe that the findings and recommendations of this work will be extremely valuable to the building and fire safety communities, and to the future safety and well-being of the American public.

Mr. Fitzgerald called the next speaker, Mr. Jake Pauls.

Jake Pauls, Consulting Services in Building Use and Safety

  • I suggest using subcommittees and task groups to allow the Advisory Committee to do its work.
  • I have 36 years of experience working on evacuations and have worked on other advisory committees.
  • I am surprised that no member of the NIST WTC investigation team has visited or interviewed me. I have a wealth of information on high-rise building evacuations that is available to NIST, is located nearby, and have not had anyone look at this information from the WTC investigation team.
  • I recommend the use of media databases. The media has gotten hold of a lot of information and NIST should be using it. USA Today and the New York Times are two good examples.
  • I find it dubious that the language in the NCST Act will stop information from NCST investigations from being used in subsequent legal actions.
  • I was at a recent conference on pedestrian evacuation in England and I was surprised to see that none of the consultants hired by NIST to advise on the evacuation of the WTC towers were there.
  • NIST should not overpromise results particularly in code development and the standards process.
  • With regard to the IRB process—it appears that hurdles set up by NIST have hurt cooperation between researchers. The UK team should be included in the evacuation study of the WTC towers. They have much more experience than those currently involved.
  • There should be a focused meeting on the IRB process as soon as possible to clear up any difficulties.
  • We need to bridge the gap between the researchers and the media. The media appears to have more information and it should be used.
  • The largest evacuation in history took place a week ago and I have heard of no studies on it. (Referring to the blackout of August 14, 2003.)

Mr. Fitzgerald called the next speaker, Ms. Monica Gabrielle, who read a prepared statement.

Monica Gabrielle, Skyscraper Safety Campaign
STATEMENT (pdf file)

Mr. Fitzgerald called the next speaker, Mr. John Biechman, who read a prepared statement.

John Biechman, National Fire Protection Association
STATEMENT (pdf file)

Comment Received Via Email
Sherman Rattner

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.

August 27, 2003

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. Paul M. Fitzgerald, Committee Chair

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?
A: Implementation of the NCST Act, recommendations for improving implementation of the act, and recommendations for improving the Advisory Committee role.

The following writing assignments were agreed upon by the members: 

Paul Fitzgerald Sections 1 and 2/Sections 3.4 and 4.4
Bob Hanson Sections 3.5 and 4.5
Kathleen Tierney Sections 3.1 and 4.1
Phil DiNenno/Charlie Thornton Sections 3.2 and 4.2
David Collins/John Bryan Sections 3.3 and 4.3

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)
2. Reference to contracts issued for egress study (Jake Paul's offer to help).
3. Concern that Advisory Committee is operating in a closed manner, "mouthpiece for NIST" (Monica Gabrielle)
4. Problems with data gathering, should NIST hold a public hearing in New York City.
5. Role of Advisory Committee and external experts in launchingan NCST investigation.

  • Establish a standby panel of experts.
  • Might involve members of the Advisory Committee.
  • Forensic capabilities of NIST staff is a concern
    • Experience is along the lines of science and research
    • Funding of forensic experts to advise NIST Director?
  • Funding of future investigations
  • Criminal investigations versus NCST investigations
  • Is lack of cooperation in obtaining data a permanent impediment?
  • Exemptions from PRA, IRB, etc.
  • Meeting dates for next meeting

(NIST) Regarding forensic expertise: NCST investigations are done as a team. Expertise may be present in others at the scene. Teams could collaborate with others to obtain forensic expertise or teams could be self-contained. With regard to exemptions from PRA and IRB requirements, it would be more appropriate to seek blanket approvals rather than exemptions.

Project 3: Analysis of Structural Steel
Dr. Frank W. Gayle, WTC Investigation, Project 3 Leader


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?
A: We are performing Charpy tests on the bolts to determinenotch sensitivity.

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: Suggest that you show the data as true stress-strain curves.

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.
C: (NIST) We have done some work on the weld metal properties. We are also working with the other projects to identify theirneeds, but need to continue to do so.

*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?
A: (Committee Member) In the Northridge Earthquake there was evidence of a weld that came close to triaxial loading in tension. There was no evidence of necking, it does not occur in a triaxial loading state. Photographic data will be very useful to determine loading states of welds.
C: You might not have a connection detail in triaxial loading.MIT studies have addressed triaxial stresses.

Q: Weren't you attempting to characterize the maximum temperature of the steel?
A: We are using visual inspection of the paint condition to determine the temperatures to which the steel was exposed. We reported on this work during the presentation at the AprilAdvisory Committee meeting.

Q: Are you looking at the effects of insulation on the steel?
A: We are conducting both analytical and experimental work. Tests were conducted in February on bare and insulated steel. We are working with the Fire Research Division to analyze effects. Some of the concerns we are looking at include adhesion, cohesion, the ability of the insulation to survive an impact,and its tendency to separate.

Project 6: Fire Endurance Testing of WTC Tower Typical Floor Construction
Dr. John L. Gross, WTC Investigation, Project 6 Co-Leader


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?
A: The test article will be 14 feet wide (width of the furnace).

Q: Can you describe the restraint?
A: The thermal restraint consists of concrete-filled steel frame. Specimens bear against the frame.
Q: Will you also look at side restraints?
A: No. Only the ends of the specimen will be restrained.

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?
A: The Port Authority required that the guidance be followed by tenants. Documents indicate that the guideline was followed. Most floors in the impacted region of WTC 1 were upgraded.
A: Refer to page 81 of the May 2003 Progress Report.

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?
A: We have not been able to find a technical basis for the fireproofing thickness selected for the floor trusses, and it would provide additional information to the team.
Q: What fireproofing was still on the steel?
A: We have given considerable thought to the amount of insulation that survived the impact. We are performing physical tests and subjecting samples to accelerations. We are using analytical tools to predict accelerations and compare results to experimental data.

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?
A: We do not know what the general practice is. ASTM specifications allow substitution of materials as long as they meet or exceed the specification. The A36 steel specification is a loose specification. Economic considerations may favor supplying a higher grade steel.
C: Steel producers typically aim for 7 to 8 ksi above the minimum specification to ensure that the steel meets the specification in order to avoid scrapping steel. It was the case then and it is now that A36 steel almost always comes out at 50 ksi for angles and shapes.
C: The A36 specification dates back to the 1920s and 1930s. Strengths began to increase after World War II and typically were about 50 to 60 ksi based on structural reports I have read that were prepared at the time.
Q: Can we assume that 50 ksi was representative of 1960s practice?
A: (Committee Member) The question is really more complicated than that. Large plates can be affected by thickness and typicallyprocess at about 36 to 50 ksi.

Q: What is the most important property—that would govern what is needed from the test?
A: We are planning to use A572 steel, which is similar to theA242 that was used in building.

Q: (NIST) What about elevated temperature properties? How would composition differences affect the properties of the steel?
A: (Committee Member) A242 steel is no longer made. Chromium may be present in A242 and could help in terms of elevatedtemperature properties.

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.
A: The SAP 2000 models are coming from LERA. However, we are not relying on SAP for the modeling of the collapse sequence. We will use ANSYS for the coupled, nonlinear analysis.
A: We also have LS-DYNA for dynamic analysis. We are encouraging contractors to use other tools as long as the tools have been validated. Coupling is a concern that we are addressing withNIST Information Technology Laboratory (ITL).

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: (NIST) We will take that suggestion under consideration.
C: (NIST) The standard test does not differentiate between adhesion and cohesion. We have designed a way to address this issue. We are estimating the g forces to which fireproofing might have been subjected. Trusses rely on cohesion to retain fireproofing. Columns rely on adhesion to retain fireproofing. We are using a drop weight test to determine these properties.
C: (NIST) Weight is dropped on a beam. The height is varied to change the acceleration. We should be able to predict the acceleration at which the fireproofing comes off. Experimentsare being used to verify analysis.

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?
A: No international tests have been located. Some work hasbeen done in the UK.

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.
C: In the 1960s, the E119 test was simply for temperature and did not consider deformation. Data could be obtained analytically.
C: Check the Australian Institute of Steel as a possible sourceof data.

Q: What is the status of specimen fabrication?
A: The contractor must submit drawings of the test specimensfor NIST approval.

C: A572 steel may be difficult to obtain.
Q: (NIST) Is A36 steel available in 2003?
A: (Committee Member) A36 steel is not available. Fifty ksimaterial is probably ASTM 572 grade steel.

Q: (NIST) Should we still do a test with 0.5 inch thickness of fireproofing?
A: (Committee Member) The sensitivity of the issue is a concern.It would provide another data point.

Q: (NIST) Should an additional test be done at the 17-foot or 35-foot length if such a test is possible?
A: (Committee Member) I would suggest 17-foot for cost reasons.

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: Assuming that an A36 steel is even available, yield strength would be on the order of 42 ksi.
C: (NIST) The truss seats are the only true A36 steel in the building. That material had a yield strength of approximately42 ksi. The tension chord was approximately 55 ksi.

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.
C: The decision has to be almost immediate.
C: This is time critical.
C: I advocate a conservative approach.

Status of the Rhode Island Nightclub Investigation
Dr. William L. Grosshandler, Chief, Fire Research Division


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.
A: Release of information is the issue. It is possible to arrange the exchange of information presuming that the information can be protected. Different legal issues come up so the releaseof information would need to be determined by the lawyers.

C: The NFPA Tentative Interim Amendment (TIA) process covers not only clubs, but all assembly occupancies.

Q: What was the occupancy of the Station?
A: It was 317; 400 if tables and chairs were removed.

Q: What is the range of heat release of the foam?
A: About 600 to 1,000 kilowatts per square meter.

Q: Can information on the geometry of the club be recreated if it is not available from the Attorney General?
A: The Attorney General has mapping. We are also pursuing interviewsto try and recreate.

Q: It is a good idea to test a range of materials. Do you plan to conduct systematic interviews of survivors?
A: We are planning a public meeting in Providence in the next few months. We will be asking for information. The meeting will be an opportunity for the public to tell their stories.
Q: No interviewing is planned?
A: People may not be able to speak until after the criminal investigation concludes.
Q: Can the Attorney General preclude interviewing?
A: No, but some people may fear liability and may not want to be interviewed.
Q: Is the problem creating animosity with the Attorney General?
A: No. We are constrained by our budget. We are not pursuing IRB clearance. We plan to only conduct investigative interviews. Also the statute requires us to take a backseat to the criminal investigation.
C: More lawsuits are being filed everyday. Interviews may runinto interference for years to come.

Q: Does investigative priority mean that NIST cannot pursue interviews when a criminal investigation is under way?
A: Statute only concerns Federal criminal investigations. We are still pursuing working with the Attorney General. Everyone involved has a different set of issues that is driving theirconcerns.

Q: I'm not sure about the public meeting. What is the intent of the public meeting?
A: The idea is to get information on a voluntary basis.
C: People will want to talk, but in a confidential setting. You will want to keep them anonymous. There is a different set of IRB concerns when the person's identity is kept anonymous.
C: (NIST) That makes sense. We could use help in organizing the IRB issues.
C: If a person is anonymous, the issues are different.
C: (NIST) We will revise our draft plans and offer suggestions.

Q: How do you deal with bias in interviews?
A: This problem will be encountered at every fire. I ask that Mike Rubin help us work the conflict of interest issue. The fact that there is a warehouse full of material in Rhode Island that we cannot access is a problem. We need Counsel's guidance on this issue.
C: (NIST) There are two separate legal problems. The Attorney General has materials that are part of the criminal investigation. In addition, there are a number of civil lawsuits under way. Evidence is being held for both. The Rhode Island court has been appointed as a liaison between the plaintiffs and the defense. There is a "two-key" system. Proceedings have now been moved to Federal court. I don't know what the outcome of that will be, but I am not pessimistic about NIST gaining access to materials at some point.
C: (NIST) The earlier comment is at the heart of the issue and at the heart of the NCST Act. If we wait to work it out, no one will get around to it. It will probably require a legislative fix requiring experts to establish a path for us. The goal of the NCST Act was a timely investigation...we are notdoing that.

*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.
C: This is currently a legal issue. NIST would welcome advicefrom the Advisory Committee.

Q: Is there subpoena power in the NCST Act?
A: (Committee Member) Yes. However, it is not always the bestway to get access to information.

Q: The fire at the Station Nightclub started in two locations. Does the NIST simulation allow for the fire to start in two locations?
A: Yes. The model includes two ignition 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?
A: We have contacted the medical examiner. We do not expect access to information until the issues with the Attorney Generalhave been worked out.

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.

Proposed Rulemaking

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: (NIST) If you include hurricanes (Andrew, Hugo), the number of failures approaches one per year.
C: I omitted hurricanes in my estimate because of the size of the area affected and the differences in construction thatcan be present in the affected areas.

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.
C: Suggest keeping the criteria as they are. We need to keep the criteria as flexible as possible.
Q: Isn't the fire criteria wide open? Buildings burn down everyday.
C: (Committee Member) NCST would not always respond. They would only respond if an investigation would lead to new knowledge.
Q: Using One Meridian Plaza as an example. There were three deaths, all firefighters. The building was unoccupied at the time of the fire. If it had been occupied, it would have been an entirely different story. The public should not have to second-guess if an NCST investigation will be initiated. When was the decision made to start an investigation in Rhode Island?
A: In the case of The Station fire, we had a reconnaissance team moving within 36 hours. A decision to deploy a team was made within a week. This was our first time dealing with these issues.
C: Suggest we move on. There is no support for prescriptivecriteria.

Q: Are construction failures included or only failures of as-built buildings?
A: The act does not address construction specifically. It only addresses building failures. OSHA would normally have responsibility for construction failures.
C: I disagree. OSHA doesn't always do technical investigations. They are mainly concerned with compliance. When the West Virginia Cooling Tower collapse occurred, 51 workers died. OSHA was there. The National Bureau of Standards (NBS) investigated. L'Ambiance Plaza was a similar situation. The cooling tower workers who died were all craft workers, no supervisors. It was a failure in construction that had code implications. The issue was systemic. Code changes should be considered on a national level. Could lead to changes in practice.
Q: Were there code implications from the cooling tower collapse?
C: There was no engineer of record for the scaffold. It was connected to one-day-old concrete. Connecticut is the only state that requires peer review. Those changes could be adopted in other states. OSHA does not have the technical expertise. They deal with issues of compliance.
C: (NIST) OSHA called NIST in on the two investigations cited. OSHA looks at compliance issues and NIST has a technical capability that OSHA doesn't to allow it to support such exceptional investigations, for example, codes, standards, and engineering practices for a construction accident.
Q: Should the proposed rule specify construction failures?
A: Yes.

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: It is under study by the National Fire Service.
C: (NIST) Siting of a new developments is the issue. Fire could spread from wild lands to development and from house to house.
C: (NIST) Fire spread issue is a concern. There are urban-wild land issues. Also, the proliferation of high density developments that rely on sprinkler systems is a problem. There is the potential for building-to-building fire spread and a large development could go down quickly.
C: Also, emergency response issues.
C: Agree. Another Oakland Hills fire would be more devastating.

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.
C: That may be more implementation than rulemaking. With regard to the scope of the rule, I suggest making the draft as broad as possible. We will revisit it at the next meeting. NIST should include urban wildland interface as an issue to be discussedat the next meeting.

*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?
A: NIST's procurement office holds the evaluation. Some documents are not available.
Q: A briefing on the process used would be helpful.
A: The process used for soliciting and the selection of contractors was presented at the last meeting of the Advisory Committee. We establish requirements and evaluation factors. Once the proposals are received, NIST conducts individual reviews and the procurement official chairs a consensus review for every proposal received. Organizational conflicts of interest are addressed by the Office of the NIST Counsel.

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.
Q: What about a mechanism for public input to the NCST Advisory Committee? There may need to be a better way for the public to meet with the Committee. For example, we have never met in Rhode Island or New York City. Suggest a linkage where the chairman can get email directly and forward it on the other members of the Committee.
A: There is an email address for the public to send comments to the Advisory Committee: NCSTAC [at] (NCSTAC[at]nist[dot]gov). Messages received are forwarded to the Committee. We may need to more clearly advertise the address.
C: I did not know that an email address exists. We need to amplify this capability to the public. This is a conduit to the public.
C: It is not a conduit to the public.
C: (NIST) The Advisory Committee advises NIST. It is not an operational arm of an NCST investigation. We have discussed closed sessions. I don't know how to advise the BFRL Director or the NIST Director on closing a meeting under these circumstances that would preserve the reputation of the organizations involved. Closed meetings permit free conversation that could be helpful. NIST will have to reconsider, possibly to the detrimentof NIST and the Advisory Committee.

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 agree. I don't think that after today people could form an opinion that we are simply a mouthpiece of NIST. Wehave to address the concern more fully.

C: I think we need to respond.
C: We are parsing a public statement. We should consider all of the issues raised. We need a basis from which to respond and we need to consider the context of the statements.
Q: The comments are in the public record. If we don't respond, does that mean that we agree?
C: Jake Pauls also made several comments.
C: We don't want to be excessively defensive. We don't need to be defensive.
C: I agree that we need to recognize public comments and where the need is apparent we need to respond. We should respond now rather than wait. Items have been brought forward and weneed to have a mechanism to address them.

C: I have a sense that the concern is that we are not readily accessible, geographically removed from the communities involved.
C: If we respond, we will cover additional issues raised. We're talking about Committee access. Most of the comments dealt with implementation.
C: I am not arguing about response. Mr. Pauls had several recommendations. We are reacting to a particular statement and not the wholestatement.

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: This is along the lines of what I had in mind.

C: (NIST) It is possible that the Committee decides to have only open meetings. Open meetings may be the best way.
C: This meeting was 100% open. I am okay with open meetings, unless a closed session is necessary. I will draft a letter to Monica Gabrielle stating that we believe we are operatingin an open manner. (Paul Fitzgerald)

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).
C: Video or audiotape is fine. Transcript could follow and a summary of the meeting could be prepared. A complete record is more appropriate. These meetings are too important not to have a complete record.
C: Audio is inexpensive. Video is not necessary.
C: I have no problem with audiotape to supplement the minutes.
C: Suggest moving to audiotape to supplement the minutes.

*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: (NIST) Who would hold a hearing?
A: (Committee Member) NIST, not the Advisory Committee.
Q: (NIST) Would the focus be police or fire department? Who would we interrogate?
C: With regard to subpoena authority, both documents and people can be subpoenaed.
C: (NIST) NIST procedures spell out the process leading to issuance of a subpoena. It is a 3-step process. We are currently negotiating with New York City. We have not issued a demand letter so we are far away from a subpoena. Our experience is that we have not gone beyond a demand letter. A subpoena is not always a silver bullet. New York City is trying to establish the privileged nature of the information. We could create a situation where the city is fighting another lawsuit. We plan to introduce on our web site a list of material received. We do not want to confront New York City. I believe that we will get the information that we need. We are negotiating with the city on many fronts.
Q: The data from New York City is valuable. Do you have a feel for timing?
A: We are interested in their participation in interviews, the 9-1-1 tapes, and the McKinsey support data. Patient discussion will win out. I do not have a date when we will receive thisinformation.

Q: Do we as a Committee want to recommend a hearing in New York City?
A: (Committee Member) No. I recommend a December meeting of the Advisory Committee in New York City and that it be an openmeeting (Motion).

*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.

Closing Comments

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.

Attendance Advisory Committee
Barsom, John
Collins, David
Corbett, Glenn
DiNenno, Philip
Fitzgerald, Paul (chair)
Hanson, Robert
Thornton, Charles
Tierney, Kathleen

Snell, Jack, Designated Federal Official

DOC Management
Burkhardt, Craig

NIST Management
Bement, Arden
Semerjian, Hratch

BFRL WTC Disaster Study Secretariat
Heyman, Matthew
Hill, James
Lieberman, Melissa
Newman, Michael
Rubin, Michael

WTC Investigation
Averill, Jason
Banovic, Stephen
Carino, Nicholas
Evans, David 
Fields, Richard
Foecke, Tim
Gayle, Frank
Gross, John
Kuligowski, Erica
Lawson, James R.
Lew, H.S.
Luecke, William
McAllister, Therese
Nelson, Harold
Peacock, Richard
Sadek, Fahim
Starnes, Monica
Sunder, Shyam

Rhode Island Investigation
Bryner, Nelson
Grosshandler, William
Madrzykowski, Daniel

WTC Administrative Support
Cauffman, Stephen
Eichner, John  
Sawyer, Cheri
Soverow, Walter

Public Commentors
Biechman, John, National Fire Protection Association
Gabrielle, Monica, Skyscraper Safety Campaign
Gershon, Robyn, Columbia University
Lombardi, Francis, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
Pauls, Jake, Consulting Services in Building Use and Safety

Chris Porreca, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives

Created July 2, 2010, Updated August 25, 2016