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Federal Investigation Into World Trade Center Collapse Continues Under NIST Direction

Quarterly Report Reveals “Solid Progress”

New York, Jan 08, 2003

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a non-regulatory agency of the Department of Commerce and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) member, recently released a quarterly report from the agency's federal building and fire safety investigation into the World Trade Center (WTC) disaster of September 11, 2001. NIST launched the 24-month, $16 million investigation on August 21, 2002 as part of a broader NIST response plan to the WTC disaster. The three-part plan also incorporates a research and development program to promote changes in standards, codes and practices in the building and construction community, and an information dissemination and technical assistance program to provide guidance for response to future disasters.

At a press briefing in Washington, D.C. in December 2002, NIST released the progress report on the first three months of the investigation. The report covers NIST’s solid progress in data collection, funding for the investigation, the passage of the National Construction Safety Team Act (NCST), and communications progress with the professional community, the general public, the media and New York City authorities.

According to press materials issued with the report, NIST has consulted extensively with local authorities in New York, including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Fire Department of New York, and the New York City Department of Buildings. NIST has received volumes of information from these agencies and from organizations representing the WTC building designers, owners, leaseholders, suppliers, contractors and insurers. NIST also has access to the expertise of a private-sector coalition that includes professionals from ANSI-member organizations and other industry, standards and codes bodies to aid in the investigation’s data collection efforts.

The enormous undertaking of the investigation will require a tremendous financial base. In FY 2002, total funding of $19.4 million was allocated to support NIST’s WTC response plan, including $16 million in funding to support the WTC investigation transferred to NIST by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). These funds were made available from the emergency supplemental appropriation passed by Congress and signed into law on August 2, 2002. The president requested $4 million from Congress in FY 2003 to support the research and development and information dissemination programs; this request is currently pending in Congress.

Legislative actions affected the investigation in October of 2002 when President Bush’s signed the National Construction Safety Team Act (NCST) establishing NIST as the lead agency to investigate building failures. The act gives NIST the responsibility to dispatch teams of experts, where appropriate and practical, within 48 hours after major building disasters. The act also specifically states that NIST is not authorized to require the adoption of building codes, standards or practices. As a non-regulatory agency, NIST does not determine which building and fire safety codes, standards and practices are adopted by state and local governments.

“We have a long way to go in what is an enormous undertaking, but we have made good progress since we launched this investigation in late August,” said NIST director Dr. Arden Bement. “We aim to learn enough by the time it is finished for NIST to point to recommended improvements in the way people design, construct, maintain and use buildings, especially high-rises.”

In the course of the investigation into the WTC disaster, NIST will work actively with other organizations to ensure that “lessons learned” from investigations are put to use. NIST researchers are active participants in many standards developing and professional organizations, and the agency continues to support a strong partnership with ANSI.

NIST expects to complete its investigation and issue a final report by the end of 2004. The final plan for the NIST investigation, which reflects comments received in writing and at a June 24, 2002 public meeting held in New York City, may be found at

See related ANSI Online News story: NIST To Carry Out Two-Year, Multi-Million Dollar Federal Investigation Into World Trade Center Collapse

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