The Meeting-Room Frontline
When disaster strikes, a sense of our shared humanity overtakes us. Personal and political conflicts often dissolve for at least as long as it takes to rescue victims and provide them with adequate medical
care or shelter. We seek the comfort of other people when life throws its worst at us, and those who — by profession or happenstance — serve on the frontlines of disaster response deserve all the respect and admiration we can give them.
It takes some solid foundations, however, for the work of first responders to be as effective as possible. All of the best intentions in the world cannot make up for structures that do not withstand destructive forces and cannot retrieve time lost when search and rescue efforts are disorganized. Advance planning, supported by standardization, is needed to ensure that the fewest number of people become victims — and that the lives of those who do suffer, and their rescuers, are not put at further risk once the winds have died down, the floodwaters have retreated or the fire has been controlled.
A meeting room in a hotel or a virtual meeting online may be removed in time and place from the most recent earthquake, hurricane or terrorist attack, but the members of ASTM who come together to write standards that help ensure safety when the worst happens do inhabit a frontline of their own. The documents they write provide preventive and responsive measures that work behind the scenes to help keep casualties to a minimum.
The ASTM International construction specifications, test methods and practices cited in international building codes number in the hundreds. There are ASTM standards for the training of first responders, the management of search and rescue operations and the testing of rescue equipment such as ropes and carabiners. In 2003, stakeholders in the security industry formed a technical committee to address homeland security issues and this group has developed or is developing standards for emergency preparedness; decontamination; and chemical, radioactive, nuclear and explosive
sensors and detectors.
These are just a few examples of the many ways that ASTM International standards respond to disaster, or better yet, anticipate and help mitigate the severity of it. None of this would be possible without the concerted efforts of the ASTM International members who serve on their specialized frontlines every time they sit at the standards table.
Editor in Chief