Date: Nov. 20, 2001
Contacts: Jennifer Wenger, Media Relations Associate
Andrea Durham, Media Relations Assistant
(202) 334-2138; e-mail <>

Department of Defense Should Broaden Communication Efforts to Protect
Federal and Civilian Buildings From Bomb Attacks

WASHINGTON -- The agency within the U.S. Department of Defense charged with safeguarding America and its allies from weapons of mass destruction should step up efforts to share with the civilian community and other federal agencies knowledge gained from a research and testing program aimed at protecting people and buildings from bomb blasts, says a new report from the National Academies' National Research Council. To date, communication efforts have focused on protecting the military community and buildings used for defense purposes.

"The engineering and architectural professions have an ongoing need for guidance in designing and retrofitting buildings to reduce harm from bomb blasts," said Mete A. Sozen, chair of the committee that wrote the report and Kettelhut Distinguished Professor of Civil Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind. "The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon made it clear that all types of buildings are vulnerable to such strikes. Research advances in the area of blast effects should be shared throughout the design and building communities."

The Defense Department's Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) runs the Blast Mitigation for Structures Program, which Congress created in 1997 to identify and implement new engineering methods that can help protect lives by reducing the damage that bombs inflict on buildings. The Research Council was asked to review the program, and to recommend research activities and methods for transferring findings to the building industry.

The report calls on DTRA to play a leading role in ensuring that research on blast effects and innovations in protecting against them are communicated broadly. Ways to share this technology include developing and disseminating design guides, assessment tools, and databases; publishing research findings in engineering and architectural journals; and sponsoring conferences, symposia, and workshops that facilitate interaction between researchers and practitioners. The Federal Emergency Management Agency's newly created Office of National Preparedness, which is responsible for coordinating programs to reduce the threat of weapons of mass destruction, should be included in technology transfer activities.

The report also urges the federal government to set up rapid-response teams to collect medical information about injuries, illnesses, and casualties that result from bombing attacks, as well as build a database to store and analyze the information. Knowing the causes of injuries or illnesses, places in buildings where people have survived blasts, and hazards faced by rescue workers could prove useful for designing buildings and saving lives in future attacks.

The committee acknowledged that making certain scientific findings public could pose a security threat if they were to fall into the wrong hands. However, denying civilian engineers and architects access to such information would pose an even greater threat. Only the most sensitive information should be designated for restricted use, the report says.

DTRA's research and testing results also should inform state and local building codes -- the compilations of design and construction requirements for buildings. Technical and professional societies, such as the American Society of Civil Engineers, also should become more involved in the entire technology transfer process, helping to shape the program's research agenda, the report says. In addition, relevant university-sponsored research should be identified and tracked on a continuing basis by DTRA.

Because private-sector builders may consider it too costly to construct or retrofit buildings to withstand bomb explosions, the committee suggested that blast-resistant features be folded into a strategy that protects against a variety of hazards. For example, building code requirements already exist for earthquakes and extreme winds. Incorporating features to prevent the shattering of windows or to harden masonry walls could improve building performance against all three threats, thus saving money.

Futhermore, the committee noted, every building is different -- each has distinct purposes, design and site considerations, and budgets. Consequently, the risks that buildings face vary considerably. Hazard mitigation measures should be tailored to a particular building's structure, purpose, and use. They also should address the design, selection, and arrangement of nonstructural features such as furniture, office equipment, and overhead fixtures, to prevent additional damage or injury from them. Also, security measures for mainframe computer or communications equipment should be considered during the building's design process rather than after the fact. DTRA's blast mitigation program should provide leadership in this critical area, the committee said.

The study was funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. The report includes a CD-ROM of all papers presented at an information-gathering workshop and video clips of actual blast tests. The National Research Council is the principal operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. It is a private, nonprofit institution that provides science and technology advice under a congressional charter.

Limited supplies of Protecting People and Buildings from Terrorism: Technology Transfer for Blast-Effects Mitigation are available free from the Board on Infrastructure and the Constructed Environment (tel. 202-334-3376); full text of the report can be read online at Reporters may obtain the report and CD-ROM from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).

Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences
Board on Infrastructure and the Constructed Environment

Committee for Oversight and Assessment of Blast Effects and Related Research

Mete A. Sozen* (chair)
Kettelhut Distinguished Professor of Structural Engineering
Department of Civil Engineering
Purdue University
West Lafayette, Ind.

Stephen W. Attaway
Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff
Sandia National Laboratories
Albuquerque, N.M.

Erik Auf der Heide
Medical Officer
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

W. Gene Corley*
Vice President
Construction Technology Laboratories Inc.
Skokie, Ill.

Eve Hinman
Hinman Consulting Engineers Inc.
San Francisco

Robert P. Kennedy *
Consulting Engineer
RPK Structural Mechanics Consulting
Escondido, Calif.

Sam A. Kiger
Chairman and C.W. La Pierre Professor of
Civil and Environmental Engineering, and
Director, National Center for Explosion Resistant Design
University of Missouri

Stuart L. Knoop
Registered Architect
Oudens and Knoop, Architects, PC
Chevy Chase, Md.

Johanna LaPierre
Associate Vice President
RTKL Associates Inc.
Washington, D.C.

Mark Loizeaux
Chairman, Loizeaux Group of Companies;
CEO, Loizeaux Group International; and
President, Controlled Demolition Inc.
Phoenix, Md.

J.L. Merritt
J.L. Merritt Consulting Engineer
Yucaipa, Calif.

David J. Pelgrim
E.K. Fox & Associates Consulting Engineers
Fairfax, Va.

Eugene Sevin*
Independent Consultant
Lindhurst, Ohio

Charles H. Thornton *
Thornton-Tomasetti Engineers
New York City


Richard G. Little
Study Director

* Member, National Academy of Engineering