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ANSI Commemorates Centennial Anniversary of San Francisco Earthquake

New York, Apr 18, 2006

One hundred years ago today, one of the most devastating earthquakes in U.S. history struck San Francisco when the San Andreas Fault broke. The 7.9 magnitude earthquake sent tremors from Oregon to Los Angeles, and was felt as far east as central Nevada. The earthquake and ensuing fires destroyed more than 80% of the city, and displaced nearly three-quarters of the city’s population.

The 1906 San Francisco catastrophe marked the birth of earthquake science. The data that was collected in the aftermath of the disaster forms the basis of many ongoing efforts to prepare for earthquakes. Recent standardization activities have led to a number of new standards designed to protect lives and mitigate damage to critical infrastructure during and after an earthquake.

More destructive than the earthquake itself were the fires that ensued after the quake. Fueled by the rupture of natural gas main pipes, the fires consumed more than five hundred of San Francisco’s city blocks. A standard developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) provides a means of determining the resistance of underground pipelines to rupture during an earthquake. Addressing flexible iron pipes, fittings, and joints, ISO 16134:2006, Earthquake- and Subsidence-Resistant Design of Ductile Iron Pipelines specifies the design of expandable and contractible iron pipelines for use in areas prone to seismic activity.

The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), an accredited standards developer of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has developed more than 300 codes and standards to ensure public safety during fires. NFPA 170: Standard for Fire Safety Symbols, 2002 Edition establishes referents and symbols for use in alerting building occupants and fire fighters during fire and related life safety emergencies. NFPA 101B: Code for Means of Egress for Buildings and Structures, 1999 Edition sets forth the minimum design criteria for buildings to ease the mass exit of occupants from dangerous areas of a building.

An updated standard, jointly developed by ANSI member the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the Structural Engineering Institute, defines requirements for the general structural design of buildings. Designed for use by architects, structural engineers, and individuals involved in the preparation or administration of local building codes, ASCE/SEI 7-05, Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures specifies requirements for seismic design, and defines methods for determining the earthquake loads of buildings. An essential component to United States building codes, the earthquake load provisions of ASCE/SEI 7-05 have been incorporated into the International Code Council’s International Building Code, 2006 and the NFPA’s Building Construction and Safety Code of 2006.

The ability to communicate during or after an emergency is critical to response personnel and families alike. A standard developed by ANSI member and accredited standards developer, the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) aims to ensure the basic functionality of telecommunications infrastructure and systems during and after an earthquake. Covering physical damage to systems, the disruption of service, and danger to personnel, T1.329-2002, Network Equipment—Earthquake Resistance, defines test methods, performance requirements, and acceptance criteria to determine the resistance of telecommunications equipment to seismic activity.

Another standard developed by the ISO aims to protect buildings and bridges from earthquake damage. ISO 22762-1:2005, Elastomeric Seismic-Protection Isolators—Part 1: Test Method specifies methods for evaluating seismic isolators—the devices used in bridges and buildings to provide flexibility during seismic activity and to deflect the transmission of energy into the structure. The standard establishes methods to assess the durability, elasticity and solidity of these critical devices and the materials used in their manufacture.

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