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ASTM Standards Are Crucial to Many Aspects of Natural Disaster Preparation and Response


Natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and wild fires present enormous challenges to those attempting to minimize potential damage from future events, as well as to those who must deal with the aftermath of catastrophes. While technical standards cannot prevent natural disasters, they are used to ensure greater safety and security before disasters occur and to provide needed assistance in the wake of events.

ASTM International standards are documents containing procedures, instructions and other technical information for a wide array of subjects. These standards are developed through a consensus process by ASTM’s members who are experts in their fields.

Standards that deal with disaster situations are in place across a spectrum of ASTM committees. Because standards present clear-cut procedures to achieve objectives, the use of ASTM standards is essential when dealing with the uncertainty imposed by emergency situations.

For example, ASTM standards cover performance of windows and other exterior areas during hurricanes; fire penetration of walls; and the potential economic loss due to earthquakes. In addition, crucial topics such as hospital preparedness, search and rescue operations and emergency medical systems are also addressed by ASTM standards. Here are a few more examples:

Committee E06 on Performance of Buildings
ASTM Committee E06 on Performance of Buildings develops standards that play an important role throughout the building industry, with standards that touch on all phases of construction. Subcommittee E06.25 on Whole Buildings and Facilities is responsible for ASTM E2557, Practice for Probable Maximum Loss (PML) Evaluations for Earthquake Due-Diligence Assessments. This standard is a guide for those who are undertaking the seismic risk assessment of properties, providing a tool that allows users to objectively compare the financial risks of earthquake damage to a building, or groups of buildings, on a consistent basis.

Another E06 subcommittee, ASTM E06.51 on Performance of Windows, Doors, Skylights and Curtain Walls, has developed standards that can test the performance of windows in severe weather-related situations, particularly hurricanes. These standards include ASTM E1886 and ASTM E1996, both of which concern the performance of exterior windows, curtain walls, doors and impact protective systems during hurricanes.

Also under the jurisdiction of E06 is a standard that would aid in the evacuation of buildings disabled by a disaster: ASTM E2484, Specification for Multi-Story Building External Evacuation Control Descent Devices, developed and maintained by E06.77 on High Rise Building External Evacuation Devices. And ASTM standards are widely referenced in building codes. More than 1,500 ASTM construction specifications, practices and test methods are compiled in ASTM Standards in Building Codes, published by ASTM.

Committee E05 on Fire Standards
Standards under the jurisdiction of ASTM Committee E05 on Fire Standards are an integral part of fire safety. For example, E05 standards are important to the study of buildings response to brush fires, evaluating the fire-test-response of deck structures, determining fire penetration of exterior wall assemblies and fire tests of roof coverings.

Committee F30 on Emergency Medical Systems
Emergency medical services are crucial after a disaster has occurred. Since 1984, ASTM International Committee F30 on Emergency Medical Services has been developing standards that are relevant in any emergency situation. Subcommittee F30.02 focuses training of EMS personnel, with standards such as ASTM F1031, Practice for Training the Emergency Medical Technician (Basic), and many others that cover a variety of emergency medical needs and levels of expertise.

Another F30 subcommittee, F30.01 maintains jurisdiction over standards that cover EMS equipment, including extremity splints, spinal immobilization device, oxygen delivery systems and specialized aircraft used to transport patients in emergency situations. 

Committee F32 on Search and Rescue
Search and rescue operations are always important but take on an extra sense of urgency after a disaster has occurred. ASTM International Committee F32 on Search and Rescue works closely with the National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR) to promote knowledge through standards that cover a wide range of search and rescue activities. Education is provided through the standards developed by Subcommittee F32.03 on Personnel, Training and Education (including ASTM F2852, Practice for Training a Land Search Tracker, and ASTM F1739, Guide for Performance of a Water Rescuer-Level 1). Testing and maintenance of rescue equipment such as climbing harnesses, floatation devices, rescue litters, anchorages and rope rescue systems, is emphasized in the standards developed by F32.01.

Committee E54 on Homeland Security
Formed in 2003, ASTM Committee E54 on Homeland Security develops standards that focus on infrastructure protection, decontamination, security controls, threat and vulnerability assessment and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRNE) sensors and detectors.

Nearly all E54 standards deal with emergency situations. Two specific examples under the jurisdiction of Subcommittee E54.02 on Emergency Preparedness, Training and Procedures are ASTM E2413, Guide for Hospital Preparedness and Response, which is intended to assist hospital leaders in the design, planning and response to be undertaken as a response to an event that necessitates the activation of an emergency operations plan; and ASTM E2668, Guide for Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Development, which is a blueprint for the development of an EOC and can be used as a foundation for larger facilities, such as regional or state operations center. Also under the committee’s jurisdiction is ASTM E2458, Practices for Bulk Sample Collection and Swab Sample Collection of Visible Powders Suspected of Being Biological Agents.

In addition to the standards mentioned here, these ASTM International committees and others continue to maintain current standards and develop new standards that will help make the world safer, as well as to ease the recovery when disasters happen.

For more information about ASTM standards, visit or contact ASTM Customer Relations (phone: 610-832-9585; ASTM International welcomes and encourages participation in the development of its standards. For more information, visit

ASTM PR Contact: Barbara Schindler, Phone: 610-832-9603;

Release #9319

October 31, 2012

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