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FEMA 310 vs FEMA 178. (Is FEMA 310 Prestandard ready for Prime Time?)

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The FEMA Project Office, Ugo Morelli, for the FEMA 310 "Handbook for the 
Seismic Evaluation of Buildings -- A Prestandard." sent an email message in 
early March 2000 that said: "...we are getting ready to print an additional 
5,000 copies of the document (FEMA 310 -- A Prestandard), because most of the 
first printing of 5,000 has been distributed upon request."

FEMA 310 -- A Prestandard is based in part on the 1997 FEMA 273 methodology.

Both FEMA 273 and FEMA 310 are going through an ASCE/ANSI Standards process.  
FEMA 310 will be issued as an ASCE/FEMA 356 (forthcoming) Standard with 
mandatory language by the end of September 2000 after the problem areas in  
1997 FEMA 273 have been resolved first, because FEMA 310 is based on FEMA 273.

FEMA 310 is based on 1997 FEMA 273  Guidelines, which has been subjected to a 
very comprehensive review by the BSSC Case Studies Project, which has 
produced a FEMA 343 Report, "Case Studies: An Assessment of the NEHRP 
Guidelines for the Seismic Rehabilitation of Buildings."  FEMA 343 presents 
the results of the application of 1997 FEMA 273 Guidelines to over forty 
existing buildings prepared by forty design firms whose work was peer 
reviewed by ten experience peer reviewers, who reported to the BSSC Case 
Studies Project Technical Advisor, Andrew Merovich, who wrote FEMA 343.  
Andrew Merovich reported 42 issues (problem areas) related to the Usability 
of 1997 FEMA 273 and 25 issues (problem areas) related to the Technical 
Adequacy of 1997 FEMA 273.

An ASCE/FEMA 273 Prestandard Global Topic Report 2, Resolutions of Global 
Issues, January 18, 2000, in Appendix B, Research and Study Needs, reports 
that there are 33 important needs for more basic research to facilitate 
future improvements to the 1997 FEMA 273 Guidelines and FEMA 273 Prestandard 
as well as resolution of the 42 Usability and 25 Technical Adequacy issues in 
FEMA 343.  As of January 2000, none of the needed basic research has been 

In the face of the above facts, what is the professional obligation of the 
1997 FEMA 273 Guidelines and 1998 FEMA 310--Prestandard authors to advise 
FEMA that until the issues of Usability and Technical Adequacy in FEMA 343 
are successfully resolved and FEMA 273 and FEMA 310 has gone through the 
ASCE/ANSI standards process, it is premature to make available 5,000 more 
copies of 1998 FEMA 310 now?

I was a member of the FEMA 310, Project Steering Committee, and have raised 
for over two and one-half years problem issues in 1997 FEMA 273 and 1998 FEMA 
310.  One of the problem areas is how 1997 FEMA 273  and 1998 FEMA 310 do not 
adequately address the foundation overturning problem.

In a personal email message to me, dated March 1, 2000, one of the attendees 
at the Structural Engineers Association of California (SEAOC) State 
Seismology Committee meeting (circa, end of February 2000) said: "You will be 
heartened to know that the SEAOC Seismology Committee believes that the 
issues you have raised about foundation overturning are substantive and will 
eventually lead to significant code changes."

It is important to note that in the 1997 FEMA 273 and 1998 FEMA 310 is 
wording that states:  "Users of information from this publication assume all 
liability arising from such use."  Would the Food and Drug Administration 
ever approve for use a medicine that had a label on its bottle: "Users of 
this medicine assume all liability arising from its use that could be harmful 
to your health?"   Or is that the type of label that is put on a package of 

Think about it.

Frank E. McClure,  March 8, 2000.