Seismic Safety - New Construction

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This policy is archived and has been superseded by the policy currently in effect.

  1. Date Published: January 13, 2000

  2. Response and Recovery Directorate: 9527.1

  3. Title: Seismic Safety - New Construction

  4. Purpose: This policy is to provide guidance in determining the seismic requirements and funding eligibility for new building construction which involves Public Assistance Program grants.

  5. Scope and Audience: This policy is applicable to all major disasters and emergencies. It is for use by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) personnel making public assistance eligibility determinations for the Public Assistance Program.

  6. Background: Seismic hazards pose a serious threat throughout much of the United States. The Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act of 1977 and the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) recognize this threat and require Federal preparedness and mitigation efforts. In furtherance of NEHRP, on January 5, 1990, the President signed Executive Order 12699, Seismic Safety of Federal and Federally Assisted or Regulated New Building Construction, Federal Register, Vol. 55, No. 6, pp. 835-837. Executive Order 12699 specifically states that "Nothing in this order shall apply to assistance provided for emergency work essential to save lives and protect property and public health and safety, performed pursuant to Sections 402, 403, 502, and 503 of the …[Stafford Act]…, or for temporary housing assistance programs and individual and family grants …". "However, this order shall apply to other provisions of the Stafford Act after a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency when assistance actions involve new construction or total replacement of a building." Building repairs are excluded from the requirements of this Executive Order for new buildings.

    Section 4(a) of Executive Order 12699 makes the Interagency Committee on Seismic Safety in Construction (ICSSC), through consensus procedures, responsible to FEMA for recommending seismic design and construction standards and practices appropriate for implementation by Federal agencies. ICSSC recommends as appropriate for implementing the Executive Order those standards and practices that are substantially equivalent to or exceed the newest or next most recent edition of the NEHRP Recommended Provisions for the Development of Seismic Regulations for New Buildings. On December 4, 1998, the ICSSC made its recommendations on the substantial equivalency between the 1994 NEHRP Recommended Provisions and the following current model codes and standards:

    • Building Officials & Code Administrators International (BOCA), 1996, BOCA National Codes. - NOT EQUIVALENT

    • International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO), 1997, Uniform Building Code. - EQUIVALENT

    • Southern Building Code Congress International (SBCCI), 1997, Standard Building Code. - NOT EQUIVALENT

    • American Society of Civil Engineers, (ASCE), 1996, Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures, ASCE 7-95. - EQUIVALENT


The model building codes were found NOT EQUIVALENT for specific items that were judged to be seismically insufficient by the ICSSC. This information is available from the ICSSC. When the International Building Code (IBC) 2000 is published, the ICSSC will consider its equivalence to the 1997 NEHRP Recommended Provisions. It is likely that the IBC 2000 will be judged equivalent, as its seismic provisions are based on the 1997 NEHRP Recommended Provisions.

We have amended this policy since it was published on December 28, 1999. At that time, the final sentence of the policy statement was inadvertently omitted.

  1. Policy: All construction of new buildings that is eligible under the Public Assistance Program must use appropriate seismic design and construction standards and practices. This includes the construction of new buildings for:

    • Alternate or improved projects, and

    • The replacement of seriously damaged or destroyed buildings.


Standards and practices vary by location based on the probability of an event occurring in a given area.

The cause of the declared disaster does not affect the application of the Executive Order 12699's seismic requirements for all new federally funded or assisted building construction.

If FEMA funds a replacement building, the costs of meeting required and reasonable seismic codes will be eligible costs.

To the extent that eligible funds are used on new construction for an alternate or improved project, any additional costs to satisfy appropriate seismic requirements beyond those for the original approved project will not be eligible for FEMA funding.

At this time the only model codes that are substantially equivalent to Federal recommendations for new building seismic design and construction are the 1997 UBC and ASCE 7-95.

If a community uses a code other than those reviewed and judged equivalent by the ICSSC, the Director of the National Earthquake Program (NEP) will judge its equivalency.

  1. Supersession: Policy 9527.1 published on December 28, 1999.

  2. Authorities: Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act of 1977, as amended; Part 409 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, as amended; Executive Order 12699.

  3. Originating Office: Infrastructure Division, Response and Recovery Directorate

  4. Review Date: Two years from date of publication

  5. Signature:

            signed        
    Lacy E. Suiter
    Executive Associate Director
    Response and Recovery Directorate

  6. Distribution: Regional Directors and Regional and Headquarters R&R Division Directors

Last Updated: 
07/24/2014 - 16:00
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