Science Dems Urge Feds to Learn From 9/11
The U.S. House Committee on Science reviewed the results of a report released in final form today by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The report concentrates on the structural collapse of the World Trade Center buildings on September 11, 2001, and recommendations for improving building codes, emergency response and evacuation in the aftermath of that tragedy.
"On the surface, today’s hearing topic may sound dry and technical. However, what we’re really talking about is saving lives," said Science Committee Member Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC). Mr. Miller has also worked on terrorism preparedness as part of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, through his position on the House Financial Services Committee.
Given that NIST falls under the jurisdiction of the Science Committee, two hearings were held in 2002 on this important matter. The first investigated how the Federal Government examines catastrophic building failures and the second looked at the report issued by the Building Performance Assessment Team (BPAT) as to specifically why World Trade Center Towers 1, 2 and 7 failed.
Additionally, review of past BPAT studies found that after reports were produced, little if any subsequent action was taken by the Federal Government to put recommendations into practice - whether they were recommendations to improve building performance, emergency response or evacuation procedures.
"A structure may not be able to guarantee the safety of its inhabitants in the event of an emergency, but that structure can always be made safer. That’s the task at hand," stated Rep. Miller.
As a result of the initial Science Committee hearings, the National Construction Safety Team (NCST) Act (H.R. 4687) became law on October 1, 2002. The NCST lays out specific powers (including subpoena power) and requirements for NIST to follow in a building investigation. Once its investigation is completed, NIST must issue a public report that includes analysis of the incident, technical recommendations for changes to the evacuation and emergency response procedures; specific recommendations for improvements to the building; standards codes and practices; and recommendations for further research.
"The NIST report is a good first step, but much work remains to be done," added Rep. Miller. "We need to know what is required to translate the NIST recommendations into improved building codes, and emergency response and evacuation procedures. It is these changes that will improve public safety; otherwise we will have nothing more than another government report sitting on a shelf."