Welded Steel Moment Frame Policy

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This policy is archived and has been superseded by the policy currently in effect.

  1. Date Published: October 17, 2003

  2. Recovery Division Policy Number: 9524.1

  3. Title: Policy on the Eligibility of Welded Steel Moment-Frame Inspections

  4. Purpose: To revise the policy by which the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) determines the eligibility of costs for inspection, evaluation and repair of welded steel moment frames of building structures damaged by earthquakes.

  5. Scope and Audience: This policy prescribes eligible and ineligible costs associated with the inspection, evaluation and repair of welded steel moment frames of building structures constructed with steel framing joined by welded connections subject to brittle fracture, such as those constructed prior to 1995 using the prescribed detail of Section 2710 (g) B of the 1991 Uniform Building Code or its equivalent. This policy is intended for FEMA personnel involved in making eligibility determinations for the Public Assistance Program. This policy is applicable to all major disasters declared on or after the publication of this document.

  6. Background: The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, as amended, ("Stafford Act") and implementing regulations in 44 CFR Part 206.228(a)(2) provide an administrative allowance (sometimes called "the sliding scale") to reimburse applicants for costs incurred while requesting, obtaining, and administering Federal disaster assistance grants. This allowance, which is based on a fixed percentage of the cost of eligible repairs, is intended to include the costs incurred for an applicant's evaluation of the extent of damage to eligible damaged facilities. The Stafford Act specifies that the cost of field inspections is part of the administrative allowance. However, the costs associated with the inspection of welded steel moment-frame connections seems to go beyond the types of work contemplated by the Stafford Act.

FEMA recognizes the unique situation presented by the inspection of welded steel moment-frame connections that potentially can have brittle fractures. These connections typically are covered with architectural finishes and occasionally are protected with asbestos or other fire retardants. These coverings add complexity to the inspection of connections. Because of the numerous incidents of structural damage to welded steel moment-frame connections caused by the Northridge Earthquake, it was necessary to establish a policy by which FEMA would determine the eligibility for funding of inspection, evaluation, and repair of this damage.

A multi-year study of the welded steel moment-frame fracture issue has resulted in recommended criteria to the technical community for -

  1. The evaluation of steel moment-frame buildings affected by strong earthquake ground shaking to determine if they have been damaged, and to what extent;

  2. The identification of those buildings that have been so severely damaged that they constitute a safety hazard; and

  3. The repair of damaged structures such that they may be restored to long-term occupancy.

These results are published in Recommended Post-earthquake Evaluation and Repair Criteria for Welded Steel Moment-Frame Buildings, Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA 352, July 2000. FEMA 352, which replaces the interim guidelines of FEMA 267, is the technical basis for this policy.

FEMA has identified two potential cost impacts resulting from changes between FEMA 267 and FEMA 352. The potential cost impacts are as follows:

  1. Physical indications that require the search for damaged welded steel moment-frame connections are similar in FEMA 267 and FEMA 352, but not identical .

    1. The number of buildings to be inspected may decrease slightly because FEMA 267 used local ground accelerations equal to or greater than 0.20g whereas FEMA 352 uses local ground accelerations equal to or greater than 0.25g.

    2. The number of buildings to be inspected may also increase slightly because FEMA 352 dropped the condition of permanent interstory drift and change in building period, and added local Modified Mercalli Intensity condition.

  2. The minimum number of connections to be inspected in the search for damaged connections has been increased. Whenever significantly damaged connections are found, FEMA 352 recommends that, for an exterior moment frame, nine (9) additional connections rather than four (4) additional connections be inspected, and, for an interior moment frame, thirteen (13) additional connections rather than twelve (12) additional connections be inspected. For a severely damaged building the change in cost will be small, but for a minimally damaged building the cost increase may be more significant.

  1. Policy: This policy provides eligibility criteria for the unique inspection problems posed by brittle fracture damage to welded steel moment frames. Only otherwise eligible facilities constructed with steel framing connections subject to brittle fracture, such as those constructed prior to 1995 using the prescribed detail of Section 2710 (g) B of the 1991 Uniform Building Code or its equivalent, are eligible for FEMA reimbursement under this policy.

This policy is intended to prescribe the eligibility of post-earthquake damage inspection and evaluation costs pursuant to FEMA 352. In any case where this policy is at variance with FEMA 352, the guidance and recommendations of FEMA 352 shall govern.

  • Reimbursement for Preliminary Assessment Under Section 406 of the Stafford Act

    1. Preliminary Post-earthquake Assessment. The preliminary post-earthquake assessment described in FEMA 352, Chapter 3 is intended to allow rapid identification of those buildings that likely did not experience sufficient ground shaking to cause significant damage and which, therefore, need not be subjected to further evaluation.

      1. Screening. Chapter 3.2 of FEMA 352 describes criteria for determining the likelihood that a building experienced ground shaking of sufficient intensity to cause significant damage. Preliminary Screening is typically performed by building department officials immediately following an earthquake to determine if a building needs to be subjected to further evaluation. Costs incurred in the process of Preliminary Screening are not eligible for FEMA assistance.

      2. Preliminary Evaluation. Chapter 3.3 describes an evaluation used to determine, on a preliminary basis, whether a building has sustained either structural or nonstructural damage that results in a hazardous condition. The criteria in Section 3.3.4 are used to determine if a building has sustained damages that create an imminent risk of life safety. FEMA will reimburse the costs of visual inspections only when the conditions described in Chapter 3.3, associated with the declared disaster, are found.

    2. Strong likelihood of significant welded steel moment-frame damage . Buildings posted as condition Yellow or Red (see Table 3-2, Chapter 3 ) are subjected to further evaluation of damage to welded steel-moment connections described in FEMA 352, Section 3.3.4.

      1. FEMA will reimburse the costs of visual bottom flange connection inspections performed at locations selected in accordance with FEMA 352, Chapter 4, Method 2.

      2. Section 4.4.2, Method 2 provides guidance for the inspection of a sample of the total welded steel moment-frame connections in the building. If certain types of damage are discovered, additional visual inspection of bottom flange connections and/or top flange connections at locations recommended by FEMA 352, Chapter 4, will also be eligible for reimbursement, but only after FEMA has been informed of the frame damage already discovered, and after the Project Worksheet (PW) has been modified to include the follow-on inspection.

      3. A modified PW is required to authorize nondestructive testing if the visual inspections indicate a significant potential of concealed damage.

      4. The eligible cost of inspecting connections includes only -

        1. Removal of necessary architectural finishes such as plaster/drywall,

        2. Removal of fire retardants in the inspection area of the connection,

        3. Visual inspections,

        4. Nondestructive testing as appropriate, necessary and approved by FEMA. Testing may include liquid dye-penetrant testing or magnetic particle testing, but not ultrasonic testing.

    3. Little likelihood of significant welded steel moment frame damage . In circumstances where a building is not required to undergo a Preliminary Assessment or where a Green Posting is assigned according to Table 30-2 of FEMA 352, we will reimburse the costs of visual inspections only for those connections where significant damage associated with the declared earthquake disaster is found. Significant connection damage is defined in FEMA 352, Chapter 4 (Table 4-1a: Connection Damage Indices), as dj ³ 1.

Visual inspection of additional connections (at locations recommended by FEMA 352, following the discovery of damaged connections) will also be eligible for reimbursement, but only after FEMA has been informed of the frame damage already discovered, and a PW for the follow-on inspection has been approved. The PW may also authorize non-destructive testing if the visual inspections indicate a significant potential for concealed damage.

  1. No significant welded steel moment frame damage . Except as provided above, any inspections performed that do not yield discovery of significant connection damage attributable to the earthquake will not be eligible for FEMA reimbursement.

  2. Reimbursement for Detailed Evaluations . All buildings estimated to potentially have steel moment-frame fractures, as identified in the screening process, should be subjected to detailed evaluation. Eligible costs may include reasonable evaluation of the effects of the identified significant connection damage on the future performance of the building structure. To be eligible, this evaluation should be limited to the recommendations in FEMA 352, Chapter 4. Generally, FEMA will not fund detailed analytical or experimental studies or Level 2 evaluations as described in FEMA 352, Chapter 5. Funding of such evaluations is eligible only if a PW based on a specific scope of work and cost estimate is approved in advance.

  3. Reimbursement for Repairs . Recommended repair strategies for various degrees of documented damage are found in Chapter 4.4.2.7. The cost to repair the damaged connections to their pre-earthquake design in accordance with Chapter 6 of FEMA 352 will typically be eligible for reimbursement. Repairs of the architectural finishes and fire retardants removed in the area of the connection damage are eligible. Funding of repairs is eligible only if a PW based on a specific scope-of-work and cost estimate is approved in advance.

  1. Reference: Recommended Post-earthquake Evaluation and Repair Criteria for Welded Steel Moment Frame-Buildings, Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA 352, July, 2000.

  2. Supersession: RR Policy #4511.300 PO, EX, Welded Steel Moment Frame Inspection, Evaluation and Repair Policy.
    RR Policy #9524.1, August 17, 1999, Welded Steel Moment Frame Policy.
    RR Policy #9524.7, June 8, 2001, Interim Welded Steel Moment Frame Policy for the Nisqually Earthquake Disaster.

  3. Authorities: Section 406 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. §5172, and 44 CFR 206

  4. Originating Office: Recovery Division, Emergency Preparedness & Response Directorate

  5. Review Date: Five (5) years from date of publication.

  6. Signature:

        signed        
Laurence W. Zensinger
Acting Director, Recovery Division
Emergency Preparedness & Response
Department of Homeland Security

  1. Distribution: Regional Directors, Regional and Headquarters Recovery Division Directors, and Regional Public Assistance Branch Chiefs

Last Updated: 
07/24/2014 - 16:00
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