“The Structural Engineers Association of Southern California will empower its members and advance the Structural Engineering Profession in service to our community” - This is SEAOSC’s mission. A single simple sentence to let the world know what we are all about. Twenty-two strategically crafted words strung together, intended to define the vast types of works we do. It is the five words in service to our community that I would like to focus on today.
For me, “our community” is the neighborhoods, cities, and counties that we live, work, and raise our families in. To be able to serve this community is a powerful thing. That act of service is providing safe buildings for our community members to thrive. That act of service is educating the next generation of engineers, providing new research and technical resources to those already in the field, or developing new products. And that act of service also includes educating and advocating for our neighbors - protecting and improving the housing, economy, and character of those around us. SEAOSC has approached this advocacy recently on multiple fonts:
For nearly a decade, our SEAOSC Safer Cities Program has emphasized the value of strengthening existing buildings as a means of creating safer communities. Our volunteers have worked with a number of Southern California Cities to aid in the development of recent Seismic Retrofit Ordinances. And as recently as August, we once again activated our Safer Cities Advisory Program to support a local jurisdiction. To learn more about the current efforts our members are collaborating on, please join us for the State of SEAOSC address, September 8th.
This past year, SEAOC sponsored state Assembly Bill 1329, fighting to raise design standards above and beyond that of life safety. On behalf of all four California Member Organizations, SEAOC’s Legislative Committee gave us a powerful statewide collective voice on capitol hill. Here in Southern California, we lent support to the effort by connecting with state legislative offices to discuss vulnerabilities in our own backyards. If this type of work is something that peaks your interest, please check out our SEAOSC Legislative Action Committee during the October 6th Committee Showcase. (Although the bill did not make it to the Governor’s desk last week, the amount of effort put forth by the SEAOC committee and chair Ryan Kersting was enormous and much appreciated.)
What does in service to our community look like for you, and how can SEAOSC help you with that vision? As always, share your thoughts and feedback with SEAOSC@SEAOSC.org.
Kelsey Anne Parolini, S.E.
SEAOSC President, 2021-22
On September 3, 2021, the State of California launched the 45-day public comment period for the Building Standards Commission approved proposals to amend the California Building Code (CBC) by State jurisdictions (DSA, OSHPD, HCD, etc.). The SEAOSC Codes and Standards Committee is asking all members to review these proposals and offer your expertise and input. This can be done by emailing your comments to the Codes and Standards Committee, as it will have more weight if it is included with comments from the Association.
These proposals can be found at 2021 Public comments (ca.gov). You will see one bar for each jurisdiction. For example, if you click “DSA-SS/CC,” you will see the following:
From the options, “Initial Express Terms” are the actual proposals written in legal language. For a better understanding, you may consider reading the “Initial Statement of Reasons” (ISOR) first.
The proposals were written in April, and the Commission decision can be found by clicking “Commission Action Matrix.” The matrix shows most of them approved as written. (Note that those few that were not approved will not advance, and as such, commenting on them is not useful.)
On Monday, August 9, 2021, more than 100 golfers hit the links at Friendly Hills Golf Course in Whittier for the Annual SEAOSC Golf Tournament. Foursomes and golfers made up of members, guests, sponsors, and industry partners spent the day trying to get the lowest score while having the highest amount of fun. Everyone had three chances to win $10,000 with a hole in one on three different holes, but that elusive prize wasn’t claimed by even the day’s best golfers! Thanks to our sponsors, including Tournament Sponsor Fyfe, as well as Nucor Vulcraft/Verco Group, Sika Corporation, Hilti North America, Concrete West, Simpson Strong-Tie, and Hardy Fall Protection System. Thanks to our golf Tournament Chairperson and current SEAOSC Treasurer, Craig Chamberlain.
Structural Engineers play such a vital role in our society, not just for the built environment where we lend our technical expertise to the construction world, but also, in providing peace of mind, solace and a sense of security, especially in the aftermath of a tragedy such as the Champlain Towers condo collapse. Once the shock of such a tragedy has passed, the general public and our community leaders begin a quest for answers and seek experts to help provide those answers.
In the digital age where information flows so readily, Structural Engineers have a responsibility to the public and our profession to be a pillar of knowledge. But how do we get our message across? How can we make ourselves heard, and how do we provide the peace of mind to our neighbors, letting them know that Structural Engineers have the answers?
On August 4, SEAOSC leaders participated in a virtual, 2-hour media training to tackle these topics and more. We took a dive into the recent tragedy and reviewed several media clips where various engineers from across the nation, including fellow SEAOSC members, addressed various media outlets. During this training, attendees were able to participate in a mock media interview to add additional realism to the class.
Topics also included how to craft effective messages and what perceptions may be left in the minds of viewers, who are likely not engineers, based on how the information is presented. The participants were able to gain a better understanding of how the media seeks out its “experts,” and, if called to respond, how to be more prepared to better represent the profession.
Though many tactics and techniques were presented, the basis of this work was being intentional in the messaging the interviewee is trying to get across to the wider audience. This stems from four simple questions:
1. What do you want the audience to know; what is your key message? What is the information you have that they should have regarding that topic?
2. What do you want the audience to do when they hear your message? What is your “call to action” for them?
3. What is visual or descriptive about your message? What examples or analogies can you use to illustrate your key points that will resonate with non-engineers? (This is especially important for radio or print publications.)
4. When is your message relevant? When should you be pitching to media on your topic or be ready to respond because of some other circumstance?
With these four components, you can begin to form your key message that can be practiced and refined before it’s actually needed. SEAOSC’s Board has adopted key talking points for representatives to use during interviews that allows for the individuals expertise to shine while representing the association and profession.
From this training, it’s clear how much responsibility you have if a member of the media reaches out to you… your 5-minute interview may very well contain a 3-second clip that can impact the opinion millions of people have on the Structural Engineering profession.
SEAOSC will be offering additional media and communication trainings throughout the 2021-22 program year, so make sure to register for the next program.
The program featured SEAOSC members as the expert panelists including John Wallace (UCLA), Jonathan Glassman, Vida Tarassoly (Rubicon Engineering), and Boardmember Maria Mohammed (Structural Focus). Each shared insights that enabled the attendees to begin to craft informed policies and programs to address the need to ensure the safety of existing buildings. From this conversation, multiple state and local offices have engaged with SEAOSC to get more information and advice, and have even requested the activation of our Safer Cities Advisory program.
Here at SEAOSC, it is our mission to advance the profession of Structural Engineering in service to our members and our community. Each of our members does this in their own way, and the association works to elevate and promote our profession as manifested by the active members. If you are interested in these types of community conversations, consider becoming engaged with our newly-formed SEAOSC Legislative Action Committee, starting up this fall. You can find out more about this and other ways to leverage your expertise on October 6, 2021 at the annual SEAOSC Committee Showcase.
Exciting and important changes are coming to SEAOSC this year - all in service of our members and our profession. Here are five main changes you can expect to see coming your way...
New Executive Director: We are excited to welcome John Bwarie as SEAOSC’s new Executive Director. As founder and CEO of Stratiscope, John has a passion for community engagement and activation. Together with his team, John is positioned to elevate your member experience while also helping the association strengthen its outward facing voice. Join me in welcoming John and the Stratiscope team.
New and Improved Member Benefits: 2020 brought changes to our industry and the way we do our jobs. SEAOSC understands this, and is making a point to align member benefits with the here and now. We'll be offering member-only resources and tools to help you thrive from trainings to access to policy-makers to new activities that raise the value and reputation of the structural engineering profession.
Updated Communications and Branding: SEAOSC putting a focus on communication this year, both internally among our members and externally to the communities we work in. You will see changes in our outreach, replacing the monthly newsletter with weekly emails - keep an eye out for us each Tuesday. We also have a growing presence on social media, so if you haven’t yet done so check us out on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. As the year progresses we will also be harnessing the momentum coming from NCSEA’s External Marketing & Public Relations Program. It is important to us that SEAOSC reflects the professionalism and energy each one of you show in your work.
Returning to In-Person: SEAOSC is scheduling in-person events in the Fall of 2021. Gatherings will be done in a safe manner, following Federal, State and Local guidelines. Save a spot on your calendar October 6th for our annual Committee Showcase.
Reimagined Events: As we emerge from a year of virtual interactions, SEAOSC will be rethinking how we connect. Meeting formats will vary each month and include happy hour gatherings, new venues, virtual/in-person hybrid interactions, and even breakfast gatherings for you early birds. Meetings will still be the first Wednesday of the month, so don’t be shy, come check out what we have in store.
SEAOSC is powered by the passion our members and supporters have for Structural Engineering. It is this internal network that allows us to continue striving forward in our community outreach, professional development, networking and technical knowledge. In turn, we want to make sure we are meeting your expectations. As valued members, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the SEAOSC office (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any comments or suggestions.
As part of Building Safety Month 2021, SEAOSC hosted a group of building officials from across California, practicing engineers, and representatives from EERI and the National Association of Home Builders to discuss functional recovery. This second annual event was held in partnership with CalBO and ICC.
SEAOSC Board Member Susan Dowty of ICC presented FEMA P-2090: Recommended Options for Improving the Built Environment for Post-Earthquake Reoccupancy and Functional Recovery Time, and Ryan Kersting of SEAOC updated the more than 75 attendees about pending California Legislation related to it (AB 1329).In addition, SEAOSC Existing Buildings Committee Chair Daniel Zepeda introduced the group to SEAOSC’s Safer Cities Advisory Program.
After hearing the updates, the attendees were separated into breakout rooms to discuss the issues and how functional recovery impacts individual jurisdictions. The groups recognized that our communities may need to respond to multiple hazards. Having the right resources available are critical to success, such as access to electronic records and enough staff available to respond. Many participants were taking lessons from the pandemic and seeing how they could be applied to the next disaster, for example expanding essential facilities to include grocery stores and pharmacies. Remote operations will be an essential tool in serving our communities in the next disaster.
The group discussed concerns about the cost impact of functional recovery, including the current shortage and the rising cost of materials. Functional recovery may best to be done at a state level rather than individual city level, given that different communities have different resources available. Availability and timing of funding from insurance claims and FEMA was also discussed. Political momentum can be difficult to achieve but it’s essential to execute these efforts.
There was widespread consensus that functional recovery needs to include existing buildings as well as new constriction. Understanding different construction types, building inventories, and building vulnerabilities is needed. It’s important that planning is holistic; for example, including stakeholders, first responders, and inspectors to ensure people know how to implement the plan.
Many participants spoke about the importance of communication and messaging. We need to help stakeholders and decision makers understand building performance and recovery time, as well as the nuance between functional recovery vs safety standards vs community resiliency. With education and political will, we can be prepared for a successful functional recovery in the future.
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The Structural Engineers Association of Southern California (SEAOSC) is the oldest structural engineering association in the world.