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RE: Loose Cannons Probably Won't Help and May Harm

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Thanks for the advice, Fred.

First your last question - "Are single family dwellings really the critical
subject that we want to fill up our email with? It is not that important to
Historically, you may be justified since the profession has only been
concerned about preserving life safety in structures of higher occupancy.
Which would you rather lose; your office or your home? Not to by cynical,
you do very little in the private sector with the homeowner, other than from
an observers point of view. Many of us are intimately involved with victim -
and we become their lifeline rather than simply a consultant. By comparison,
anyone who has experienced a robbery or break-in will testify that the
intrusion is like a rape of their privacy. Damage to a homeowner is equally
as devastating since our homes is where we leave the work world and where we
enter the comfort of our families and friends.

I would love to have your faith as to the effectiveness of our professional
organizations - unfortunately I don't. There are simply too many obstacles
(as Frank Lew attests to) and not enough creative protagonists in our
professional affiliations to institute change.

You assume that the majority of those involved in this issue are SEAOC or
even SEA members - I doubt it. Engineers are not the byproduct of
professional organizations - it's the other way around. If the organization
is not effective, we can either demand change or withdraw our support. We do
not, however, need to continue supporting ineffective organizations.

Similar to your last statement - I am uninterested in high-rise structures,
hospitals, tilt-up buildings and many other types of structures supported by
our professional affiliation. I design homes, repair homes, retrofit homes
and represent homeowners. I want to channel my dues to the organization that
best meets the needs of the many millions of homeowners who are financially
at risk.  I do not need to fund an organization that ignores the basic
single family residence.

We would not be having this discussion if not for the power of the Internet
Listservice. The increased number of voices on this list have drawn
attention to various subjects which have concerned engineers for a long
time, but who did not have the unity to do much about it.  IMO, we are far
more prone to inactivity and pacifism than we are for activism. I don't that
members should be warned against voicing an opinion since they are apt to do
that without our help. Nor do I believe that my opinions need to wait for
approval from SEAOC to determine if it is a relevant cause. As a registered
engineer, I am convinced that the problems are real because I evaluated them
by years of personal experiences. I also don't want to represent SEA's
needs, I want the members of SEAOC to represent me as a dues paying member.

I do admit that my frustration led me to write to NAHB. However, the
suggestion came from the NAHB web site which asked for help from other
knowledgeable professionals. I felt that my suggestion to those responsible
for the web page were very constructive: 1) join our List to enter into
discussions related to their present goals, 2) Identify some of the very
basic problems, and 3) Offer them a summary of solutions discussed on our
I don't believe my letter was an angry demand, nor do I feel, as a
practicing professional, that I need to channel my opinions through SEAOC or
any other organization as a prerequisite to voice my concerns publicly.
I did not represent myself to NAHB as a spokesman for SEAOC, nor did I
suggest that I carried the opinions of any professional organization that I
belong to. I did, however, suggest that I was an active member of both SEAOC
and LGSEA have volunteered my efforts in the past to help work on similar

I wish I had the implicit faith that you have in the "system" (I'm not being
cynical or sarcastic here). For whatever reason, the issues that I am most
concerned with have never been treated with any importance by our
profession. I believe this is due to the simple fact that Single Family
Residences are low occupancy, low risk type (life safety issues) of

I believe you can see how this has changed considering your work with the
RRR committee. This code (Uniform Code for Building Conservation Appendix
Chapter 5) was written under the pressure of the Insurance lobbyist's as
well as SEAOC, AIA and even the pest control industry subsequent to Loma
Prieta cripple wall and open front failures. Statistically, very few lives
were lost. The motivation for this code and subsequent disclosure laws under
Assembly Bill 200, were the result to financial assessments rather than life
safety issues.

I would suggest that those who are available to help work within SEAOC help
pave the way as you suggest. Unfortunately, I must resort to what realistic
means I have to voice my opinion - Email, professional journals, letters to
SEAOC, email to SEAOC and the SEAOC Listservice. I do not have the time to
travel the 150 miles for committee meetings. Possibly others can help and I
hope they do.

One last comment - short of threatening physical harm, I don't see how any
individual can cause harm to a professional organization by voicing an
opinion. Silence is not golden, in this case its just apathetic and

Dennis Wish PE

-----Original Message-----
From: FredT5 [mailto:FredT5(--nospam--at)]
Sent: Monday, May 25, 1998 2:17 PM
To: seaoc(--nospam--at)
Subject: Loose Cannons Probably Won't Help and May Harm

Before you launch off to individually write to NAHB, please take a minute
ponder these suggestions. It is quite confusing to a group like NAHB to be
up by single members of SEAOC with divergent thoughts.

You might avoid getting nowhere and causing more harm to SEAOC than good if

First: Follow the normal protocol for cases like this is 1) Take it up with
your local board of directors within SEAOSC or other groups, then
2) Ask them to bring it up to the statewide board, then
3) Let SEAOC, SEI, or NCSEA do the talking at the national level.
You should plan on physically attending meetings and using real talk on the
phone to get your points across. Decisions are not made by email.

Second: Make your ideas for change constructive. Be specific.

Third: Seek out official support from your local and state and western
organizations before going national.

Fourth: Exhaust the normal avenues for change before resorting to whistle

Fifth: After SEAOC, SEI, or NCSEA Board(s) give you approval to speak (this
should keep you busy for a while...) NAHB is a rather big organization so
might want to start with someone on the NAHB staff that might know something
about earthquake-related code issues. Try Ed Sutton since he's listed as
NAHB's rep on the BSSC and is in their Construction, Codes, and Standards
Dept. Or try Bob Elliot or Kenneth Ford his predecessors.

As an aside, I thought most SEAOC members focus on bigger buildings and
structures than homes. Are single family dwellings really the critical
that we want to fill up our email with? It is not that important to me.