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.