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ASCE Releases Post-Earthquake Fire Framework

THURSDAY, MARCH 31, 2022


The American Society of Civil Engineers has recently released a new evaluation framework regarding earthquake damage and potential fire ignitions.

In its new report, the ASCE’s Post-Earthquake Fire Hazard Task Group, along with the Fire Protection Committee of the Structural Engineering Institute, evaluate how earthquake damage can increase the likelihood of fire ignitions regarding utility lines and interior fire protection systems.

The document also presents background for the analysis, design and assessment of building structural systems under fire following earthquakes, as well as guidance based on current state-of-the-art practices, applicable building codes and outcomes of experimental and numerical research results.

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The American Society of Civil Engineers has recently released a new evaluation framework regarding earthquake damage and potential fire ignitions.
1joe / Getty Images

The American Society of Civil Engineers has recently released a new evaluation framework regarding earthquake damage and potential fire ignitions.

Specific topics covered in the book, among others, include:

  • Documented observations during historic post-earthquake fires;
  • Statistics of the number of ignitions following a sample of past earthquakes;
  • Causes of ignition;
  • Damage to passive and active fire protection systems inside a building;
  • Application of performance-based design methodology to fire following earthquakes;
  • Dependency of fire department response on the level of damage to community infrastructure for successful suppression of fires;
  • Potential for fire spread between buildings; and
  • Recommendations and factors that should be considered when assessing or designing for fire following earthquakes.

The book aims to benefit structural engineers, professionals in the nuclear industry, as well as first responders, building authorities, risk management and insurance professionals.

Recent Standards, Industry Manuals

In December, the ASCE announced the release of its newly updated ASCE/SEI 7-22 with the goal of better protecting infrastructure from tornado damage.

According to ASCE, the Minimum Design Loads and Associated Criteria for Buildings and Other Structures standard is the Society’s most widely used professional standard and a critical tool in a civil engineer’s commitment to protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public.

Reported to be the first of its kind in the world, the new ASCE standard offers guidance to protect buildings from tornadoes ranking from 0 to 2 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, which translates to winds ranging from 40 mph at the bottom of EF0 to 157 mph at the top of EF2.

Research posted by U.S. Tornadoes suggests that approximately 80% of tornadoes in the nation rate between EF0 to EF1 strength, while the tornado that struck Kentucky just weeks before the document’s release was reported to rank anywhere between an EF3 and an EF5.

In superseding the ASCE/SEI 7-16 standard, the new edition also provides up-to-date and coordinated loading provisions for general structural design for all hazards including dead, live, soil, flood, tsunami, snow, rain, atmospheric ice, seismic, wind and fire, as well as how to evaluate load combinations.

The new provisions, the Society reports, are not meant for residential construction, but rather for critical infrastructure such as hospitals and fire stations. In gathering data to provide the update, the committee reportedly drew on new models for more accurate snow load and developed a new multipoint seismic spectrum for certain soft-soil sites.

Due to the infancy of the research, storms ranked EF3 or higher were not included in the newly published guidelines. However, once more research is complete, Don Scott, the chair of the ASCE-7 Wind Load subcommittee, told reporters that more severe storms could be accounted for.

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According to the new updated standards, new recommendations include making windows impact-resistant, establishing continuous load paths and replacing toenail trusses with steel clips, among others.

Additionally, the ASCE 7-22 now requires use of digital data uniquely identified in hazard-specific geodatabases for all environmental hazards. The digital data is available via open access from the ASCE 7 Hazard Tool while a print version is available as a two-volume paperback set or as a PDF.

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In 2022, the standard is slated to go up for consideration to be entered into Chapter 16 of the 2024 International Building Code.

In June, the ASCE released Hazard-Resilient Infrastructure: Analysis and Design, MOP 144, to provide civil engineers guidance and an underlying framework for designing new infrastructure systems with consistency across hazards, systems and sectors.

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The new manual was sponsored by the ASCE Infrastructure Resilience Division and was edited by Bilal M. Ayyub, Ph.D., P.E., Dist.M.ASCE. Ayyub is also noted to serve as the director of the Center for Technology and Systems Management of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Maryland.

In the latest publication, Ayyub reports that focus on consistency is a new aspect and is more greatly emphasized, at least when compared to the last 10 years of the civil engineering industry.

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Throughout the manual, readers are walked through how to identify and analyze hazards, system failures, the economics of resilience, and technologies for enhancing new and existing infrastructure through probabilistic methods for risk analysis and management of infrastructure projects.

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Tagged categories: American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE); Building codes; Disasters; Engineers; Fire; Good Technical Practice; Hazards; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Safety


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