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 January 2006 Spotlight

Overcoming Katrina

by Richard Wilhelm

Those of us who create, develop, publish, promote or otherwise work with standards often take them for granted. This is why the staff at SN has decided to expand the scope of this back page (now officially known as Spotlight) to include stories of how ASTM International standards affect our daily lives, as well as profiles of the volunteers who bring us those standards.

Standards help us build and, when circumstances call for it, standards help us rebuild. This is currently the case in the southeastern region of the United States. Battered by Hurricane Katrina late last summer, cities like New Orleans, La.; Gulfport, Miss.; and Mobile, Ala. are now rebuilding, a process that requires the sound technical guidance that standards provide. The following list of areas in which ASTM standards will be used in renewal efforts is hardly complete, but it does present a compelling argument for the value of standards in our lives, particularly in times of crisis.

Hospital Preparedness — The most important task after Katrina hit was to assist the injured. As James Thomas, ASTM president, mentioned in his Plain Talk for a New Generation column (November 2005), in order to get damaged hospitals back up to speed, the U.S. Public Health Service requested that copies of ASTM standard E 2413, Guide for Hospital Preparedness and Response, be made available in New Orleans. The guide covers concepts, principles, and practices of an all-hazards comprehensive emergency management program for the planning, mitigation, response, recovery and coordination of hospitals in response to a major incident. The standard is under the jurisdiction of E54.02 on Emergency Preparedness, Training and Procedures, a subcommittee of Committee E54 on Homeland Security.

Petroleum — Ralph A. Cherrillo, secretary, Committee D02 on Petroleum Products and Lubricants, notes that one of the main purposes of D02 standards is to make certain that fuels and lubricants are fit for the purpose for which they have been developed. In the wake of Katrina, this will be more important than ever since many fuels and lubricant labs, gas stations and other places where petroleum is stored were underwater after the storm. D02 test methods will be used to determine whether fuels and lubes are contaminated. Any contaminated tanks will need to be cleaned adequately and re-stocked with on-spec products.

Cement and Concrete — While it appears that debate on the structure of the levees in New Orleans, the reasons for their failure, and the best way to rebuild them will continue for quite a while, one thing is certain: cement and concrete are essential to construction, which means that standards developed by Committee C01 on Cement and Committee C09 on Concrete will be crucial components of all large reconstruction efforts, from levees to bridges to buildings.

Glass — Photos of downtown New Orleans following Katrina revealed skyscrapers with dozens of windows completely blown out. Specifying glass that is strong enough to withstand storms like Katrina is a challenge that has been contemplated by Committee C14 on Glass. Standards that deal specifically with the effects of hurricanes on window glass like E 1996, Specification for Performance of Exterior Windows, Curtain Walls, Doors and Impact Protective Systems Impacted by Windborne Debris in Hurricanes, and C 1172, Specification for Laminated Architectural Flat Glass, will be helpful in designing the next generation of buildings in the affected areas.

In addition to standards, papers delivered at a 2002 ASTM symposium on the use of glass in buildings may be of interest to those working on developing stronger glass. One such paper, “Retrofitting Commercial Structures with Laminated Glass to Withstand Hurricane Effects,” by Paul E. Beers, Mark A. Pilcher and Jeffrey C. Sciaudone, details the special designs needed for the use of laminated glass for hurricane protection. Papers from the symposium are available in STP 1434, The Use of Glass in Buildings.

ASTM standards in these subjects and many others (environmental assessment, water, protective equipment for electrical workers, to name a few) will be an integral part of the rebuilding process. As 2006 begins, thoughts of renewal continue to be on the minds of many residents of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, from those who simply want to rebuild their homes to those charged with the reconstruction of levees, bridges, buildings, roads and cities. With the help of ASTM International standards, this renewal has already begun to take a tangible form.

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