This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. CMMI 1841667. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of StEER and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

StEER continues to compile this list of frequently asked questions (FAQs). Clicking on the buttons below will advance this page to the FAQs under each theme.

 
 

What type of events does StEER respond to?

StEER’s mandate is to investigate structural performance under natural hazards that emphasizes those causing structural damage to the built environment, generally due to dynamic load effects. This would include hurricanes (wind, wave and storm surge), tornadoes and other wind events, earthquakes, and tsunamis. While wind-driven rain is considered as part of the cascading hazards encountered in wind events like hurricanes, other forms of water damage due to inland flooding are generally not targeted by StEER. Similarly while cascading hazards such as fire after earthquakes could be investigated as part of an earthquake response, StEER would not respond to a wildfire event in and of itself. As StEER operates under the NHERI Converge, its primary focus is natural hazards. With that being said, manmade hazards, including blasts, are under the purview of “extreme events” and could be very important for understanding structural performance and effectiveness of mitigation strategies. Thus StEER remains open to exploring the precedent for response to a blast or other man-made hazard and would make this decision in consultation with its NSF Program Director.

How does StEER choose what events to respond to?

StEER is currently in its launch phase and does not yet have a steering committee. In the interim, response decisions are made by a majority vote of the StEER leadership team (currently comprised of its Director and four Associate Directors). This decision is generally made within 24-48 hours of the event. This decision is based primarily on whether or not the event represents a potential opportunity to deepen our understanding of the structural performance of the built environment in this event. Characteristics of the hazard, the building inventory/infrastructure in the affected region, or possibly the unique history, policy or practice around structural mitigation in that region are all factored into this decision. Particularly in the early stages of StEER’s formation, event responses may also be selected for their potential to aid StEER in developing its protocols, policies and procedures as well as to test new collaborative models for joint reconnaissance missions with other organizations.

When is StEER going to deploy after a significant hazard event?

As StEER aspires to generate early and impactful knowledge from disasters, its prompt mobilization is essential. Within 24 to 48 hours of a significant hazard event, StEER will initiate recruitment of Virtual Assessment Structural Team (VAST) and Field Assessment Structural Team (FAST) members. StEER will deploy its FAST as soon as possible, but with care not to disrupt rescue and recovery functions. With full respect for curfews and access restrictions, StEER may field FASTs as early as 2-3 days after the event when it is able to leverage members in close proximity to the affected area, but more typically within 5 days in situations when FAST must travel greater distances or when access has been significantly impeded.

What is StEER’s funding source?

Currently StEER is funded by a 2-year EAGER Grant from NSF (CMMI 1841667) which supports the operationalization of StEER in collaboration with the wider natural hazards engineering community, including the various elements of NHERI. Supplemental funds have been allocated to StEER to support event response during this operationalization period. During this time, StEER will work closely with NSF to determine the appropriate long-term funding model and budgetary support for responses to events in 2020 and beyond.

How does StEER relate to the traditional NSF RAPID program?

StEER event response is independent of the NSF RAPID program, in that the decision to respond to a given event, the budget to be allocated, and the members to be involved are all determined by StEER (though StEER maintains close communications with NSF program directors throughout this process). As StEER is interested in swift event response and dissemination of preliminary findings with a very targeted strategy for sampling damage in the affected area, it does not have the mandate or capacity for comprehensive response to a major disaster or to undertake hypothesis-driven research. The StEER Early Access Reconnaissance Report (EARR) released shortly after its first Field Assessment Structural Team (FAST-1) concludes, identifies recommended areas for future study. These are topics StEER believes warrant further investigation, possibly through a RAPID grant. NSF works closely with StEER to avoid duplication of effort and expects to see hypothesis-driven research, ideally informed by these recommendations from StEER (with direct citation to the EARR). StEER does not directly influence the awarding of NSF RAPID grants, other than making our recommendations known to program directors and informing them of who is participating on our FASTs. Also, there is precedent for individuals participating on a StEER FAST successfully leveraging that experience (and the research questions it revealed) to secure additional NSF RAPID funds for a more intensive, hypothesis-driven investigation in the affected area.

Will StEER fund my research group to collect perishable 

data?

StEER does not conduct hypothesis-driven research or support the research agenda of any specific researcher. StEER’s mandate is to collect perishable data swiftly and systematically in order to inform the continued study of a disaster through subsequent in-depth data collection that addresses specific research questions. While involvement in StEER or the examination of StEER data and reports undoubtedly helps to illuminate new research questions, these questions should be addressed through a researcher’s own follow-on proposal to NSF (through mechanisms such as the RAPID grants) or other agencies. (See FAQ question above).

However, StEER does encourage outreach to its leadership to raise awareness about an event worthy of response and a member's willingness to lead a virtual or field assessment structural team in that response, particularly if that member is in close proximity to the impacted area. In such instances, please post a message to the StEER slack channel or send an email directly to StEER at admin@steer.network

 

How do I join StEER?

To review minimum eligibility requirements and complete the membership form, please visit https://www.steer.network/membership. While StEER engages broadly, its core membership is those with formal training/experience as structural engineers. StEER members are assigned a membership level (Level 1-4) based on their affiliation and prior experience. Membership levels are re-assigned annually as members acquire greater experience and training in post-disaster reconnaissance. StEER also has special affiliates with expertise in computer science and/or data science with interest in applying this expertise to improving the processing and discovery of knowledge using reconnaissance data.

Must all StEER members have a DesignSafe account, and if so, how do I create that account?

StEER uses DesignSafe’s Slack channel to coordinate its Field Assessment Structural Teams (FATs) and Virtual Assessment Structural Teams (VASTs),  which must move swiftly in the hours following a major event. To avoid delays that could impact the response, StEER requests that those interested in membership first create an account on DesignSafe (https://www.designsafe-ci.org/account/register/) and ensure their Slack account is activated. Please note that Slack activation is not automatic. It is a separate process that is initiated by email when you create a DesignSafe account (learn more at https://www.designsafe-ci.org/community/slack-online-collaboration/). If you already have a DesignSafe account but never used Slack (or possibly never activated your Slack account), please contact DesignSafe support team to verify that your Slack account is active.

 

What are the expectations of a Virtual Assessment Structural Team (VAST) member?

Virtual Assessment Structural Teams (VASTs) serve a number of vital roles for StEER. While StEER members of all levels participate on VASTs, VASTs serve as an important venue for Level 1 members to build up their experience to eventually move into Field Assessment Structural Teams (FASTs) as trainees. As VAST participation is more flexible and voluntary, the VAST is generally larger than the actual number of members contributing to each of the following VAST activities:

  1. In the period immediately after a major event, VASTs will form to assemble information on the hazard characteristics and preliminary estimates of impacts to affected communities to author the Preliminary Virtual Reconnaissance Report (PVRR). This report is curated on DesignSafe, with a DOI will all contributing VAST members as authors, and is circulated widely through the StEER membership and NHERI/wider hazards community.

  2. While the first FAST deploys, the VAST continues to work remotely to review damage assessments collected on StEER’s data collection platforms. Using this information and the daily summaries submitted by the FAST Lead, the VASTs will author the Early Access Reconnaissance Report (EARR), which is similarly curated on DesignSafe, with a DOI will all contributing VAST and FAST members as authors, and is circulated widely through the StEER membership and NHERI/wider hazards community.

  3. After all FAST data collection has concluded, VAST members continue to assist with the review and analysis of the collected data in preparation for final curation of the dataset in DesignSafe. The ongoing participation of VAST members in advanced analysis of this data can result in conference and journal publications.

May Virtual Assessment Structural Team (VAST) members also serve in the Field Assessment Structural Team (FAST) for the same event?

Participation in the VAST for an event in no way precludes participation on the subsequent FAST and may even prepare the StEER member better for field data collection in a given event. However, since membership Level of 2 or higher is required for FAST participation, not all VAST members would meet the eligibility requirements for the FAST.

How many participants constitute the average Virtual Assessment Structural Team (VAST)?

There is no limit on the number of participants on a VAST; in fact, the efforts are greatly expedited as more members participate. Size of VASTs depends on the interest and magnitude of the event, with recent events ranging from a half dozen to a dozen VAST members.

 

What are the expectations of a Field Assessment Structural Team (FAST) member?

Field Assessment Structural Team (FAST) members are responsible for collecting valuable perishable data as part of StEER event responses. FAST members are generally assigned particular roles based on experience, expertise and capacity, including FAST Lead, as well as members designated to conduct particularly assessments with specialized equipment, e.g., UAV operator. FASTs are expected to actively participate in the pre-deployment planning, reviewing the StEER handbook and working with their FAST colleagues and StEER leadership to plan the mission, secure flights, ground transport and lodging, and prepare provisions, supplies and equipment needed for the assessment. FAST members interface closely with key stakeholders and the affected public in their response, so StEER expects FAST members to comply with stated policies and represent StEER and NSF well in these interactions, particularly with individual homeowners. Given that StEER needs to broadly sample performance and work in coordination with others responding to the event, it will set specific objectives for the mission, with targeted geographies. FAST members are expected to collect data and coordinate their investigations on the ground to support these objectives, prioritizing these over their own research questions, though research interests between FAST members and StEER generally closely align. Given the speed with which StEER hopes to share its findings, FAST members must use StEER’s data collection platforms and standards, agree to participate in the preparation of nightly briefings, and participate (to the extent feasible) in the authorship/review of the Early Access Reconnaissance Report (EARR) upon review (for which they receive full authorship with DOI). It is further expected FAST members will assist with data curation tasks following their mission, as requested, such as ensuring data is transferred to DesignSafe and supplying relevant metadata or information needed for the Data Report to ensure the data can be re-used by the community. FAST members are also invited to jointly author conference papers and journal articles on their mission and any data collection or analysis they choose to continue following the event.

What funding is provided for Field Assessment Structural Team (FAST) members?

Each mission receives budget authorization from the StEER Director to ensure best stewardship of StEER’s limited resources for event response. StEER will directly reimburse reasonable expenses associated with travel to the affected region (by economy air or ground, including parking), lodging in the affected region, local ground transport in the affected region (rental car or reimbursement of mileage if personal vehicle is used), and cost of shipping (or renting) equipment. Each Field Assessment Structural Team (FAST) member also receives a daily meals and incidental expenses (M&IE) stipend based on the current GSA estimates for the affected region. This is intended to offset the cost of food, telecommunication costs (data plan on personal phone running relevant mobile applications) and other incidentals/supplies. Because availability of housing is often limited after major disasters, FAST members should expect to share rooms. After the mission, FAST members will submit their receipts via a google form and the lead institution (Notre Dame) will reimburse these direct costs by check. This turnaround time is generally less than 30 days. Note that, per NSF regulations, only individuals associated with US Academic institutions can receive financial support from StEER to offset costs of participation on FASTs. The individual does not need to be a US citizen.

Can I join a Field Assessment Structural Team (FAST) if I am self-funded?

While Field Assessment Structural Teams (FASTs) have had unfunded/self-funded collaborators in the field, this is generally determined on a case by case basis. Because logistics can be very difficult to arrange after major disasters, FAST size is often constrained by the available number of seats in rental cars and number of beds/couches in hotels/rental homes, rather than budget. In cases where there is availability, StEER has included 1-2 self-funded personnel (regardless of budget, this is necessary for anyone who is not affiliated with a US academic institution). These individuals are then embedded within the StEER FAST and indistinguishable from other team members (stay in the same accommodations, etc.), except for the funding issue.

 

In other instances, StEER has shared its plan for fieldwork with other interested self-funded groups, who will possibly coordinate in the field with StEER, but handle their own logistics. Working together, these teams would still adopt StEER’s data collection platforms and standards and share the workload collaboratively to support StEER mission objectives. This is a more feasible prospect for StEER, as it reduces the stresses of securing accommodation and transport for a large team.


Finally, anyone can adopt StEER’s data collection platforms and collect data in compliance with the StEER standards, so even if self-funded, StEER hopes this platform can minimally help self-funded researchers collect consistent, high-quality data. Visit https://web.fulcrumapp.com/communities/nsf-rapid to join our Fulcrum Community and access the App used currently for door-to-door damage assessments.

Is preference given to Field Assessment Structural Team (FAST) applicants who can contribute to their own funding?

While StEER’s primary objective is to field a team with the optimal blend of experience, expertise and capacity to collect the data anticipated in a given event, StEER has limited resources and can grow participation across the community at a faster rate when cost-sharing is available. In past StEER missions, Field Assessment Structural Team (FAST) members have been funded by a range of StEER, other NSF or other agency funds, as well as defraying costs through the use of university vehicles, etc.The ability to financially contribute to the mission objectives will be given due consideration in building out teams, though would not be expected as a prerequisite for participation.

Who can participate on a StEER Field Assessment Structural Team

(FAST) ? 

StEER members at Levels 3 and 4 are generally invited to participate in Field Assessment Structural Teams (FASTs). See https://www.steer.network/membership for additional details. FAST members are selected by the StEER Leadership team based upon availability, expertise, capabilities and proximity to the event site. However, in order to grow participation among early career researchers, StEER will reserve one trainee slot on each FAST for a Level 2 StEER member. StEER members at Level 4 are generally appointed as FAST Leads. Note that, per NSF regulations, only individuals associated with US Academic institutions can receive financial support from StEER to offset costs of participation on FASTs. Non-academics, e.g., industry/private sector, have served as unfunded collaborators with FASTs, provided this can be logistically accomodated.

How many participants constitute the average Field Assessment Team Structural (FAST)?

The size of an Field Assessment Structural Team (FAST) or the number of FASTs formed depends upon the scale of the event response as well as the availability of accommodations and transport in the affected region. Team size is often capped simply due to logistical challenges. A typical FAST ranges from 4-6 members. Larger events may warrant multiple sequential FASTs, referred to as FAST-1, FAST-2, etc.

Will StEER fund my research team to collect perishable data? 

StEER does not conduct hypothesis-driven research or support the research agenda of any specific researcher. StEER’s mandate is to collect perishable data swiftly and systematically in order to inform the continued study of a disaster through subsequent in-depth data collection that addresses specific research questions. While involvement in StEER or the examination of StEER data and reports undoubtedly helps to illuminate new research questions, these questions should be addressed through a researcher’s own follow-on proposal to NSF (through mechanisms such as the RAPID grants) or other agencies.  

However, StEER does encourage outreach to its leadership to raise awareness about an event worthy of response and a member's willingness to lead a virtual or field assessment structural team in that response, particularly if that member is in close proximity to the impacted area. In such instances, please post a message to the StEER slack channel or send an email directly to StEER at admin@steer.network

 

Where can I find past reports issued by StEER?

As StEER reports are released, they become available in NHERI DesignSafe’s public repository: https://www.designsafe-ci.org/data/browser/public/nees.public.  By typing “StEER” in the search bar, all datasets and reports issued by StEER will be listed. StEER also maintains a listing of its publications and datasets in two locations on its website:

  1. under the events subpage: https://www.steer.network/events and

  2. under the products subpage: https://www.steer.network/products

Where can I find past datasets collected by StEER?

As StEER datasets are curated, they become available in NHERI DesignSafe’s public repository: https://www.designsafe-ci.org/data/browser/public/nees.public.  By typing “StEER” in the search bar, all datasets and reports issued by StEER will be listed. StEER also maintains a listing of its publications and datasets in two locations on its website:

  1. under the events subpage: https://www.steer.network/events and

  2. under the products subpage: https://www.steer.network/products

Since all StEER datasets (door-to-door damage assessments as well as other imagery data) undergo a rigorous quality assurance process, the full datasets are not curated until a few months after the event. In the interim, you can access the door to door damage assessment data in our Fulcrum community page: https://web.fulcrumapp.com/communities/nsf-rapid (these entries are updated in real time as they complete their quality assurance process).

Who can use the data collected by StEER Field Assessment Structural Teams?

StEER’s reports and the data collected by its FASTs are all curated at DesignSafe explicitly to promote re-use by the community. We strongly encourage the community to explore, analyze and disseminate new knowledge generated from our data. Each report and dataset are assigned a DOI by DesignSafe when they are curated, with full authorship assigned to the FASTs and VASTs who contributed to these products. The license on these items is CC-BY (Creative Commons Attribution License), which implies that licensees may copy, distribute, display and make derivative works based on these products, but only if they provide appropriate attribution, preferably through direct citation using the associated DOI. StEER greatly appreciates a quick note to admin@steer.network when any new publication or proposal is generated using our data so we can better measure the impact of our work. We further welcome feedback at admin@steer.network with any suggestions that could improve the quality, usability or coverage of our datasets.

 

How does StEER relate to other parts of NHERI and other “EERs”?

With the arrival of NHERI CONVERGE, the first-ever Extreme Events Research Leadership Corps has been formed, which is dedicated to advancing the science and conduct of reconnaissance research. StEER is one member of this Leadership Corps, along with several NHERI sites and the other Extreme Events Reconnaissance Associations/Networks: 

Over the next five years, the Leadership Corps will: 1) develop a Research Response Plan; 2) develop Best Practice Guidance for rapid response disaster research; 3) write a Science Plan to inform future reconnaissance investigations; and 4) assume shared responsibility for internal and external messaging and communications during reconnaissance missions that involve large numbers of engineers and social scientists. In addition, the Leadership Corps will identify needs for coordination, scientific advancement, and policy implementation and work to generate actionable materials in response.

How does StEER interface with the general public, legislators and municipal authorities? 

During its responses, StEER generally interfaces with the public (affected homeowners) and authorities responsible for response and recovery actions to secure access, conduct assessments and collect eyewitness reports. StEER values these relationships and works to ensure its FAT members engage ethically and responsibly with these key stakeholders. More importantly, StEER aspires to translate the learnings from its missions broadly including direct outreach to affected communities. The formal mechanisms for such dissemination are not yet established, but in the interim, StEER’s leadership has worked when possible to provide access to its data, briefings, expert opinion and reports to local, state and federal officials. Working closely with NHERI’s Converge facility, StEER hopes in the future to become more active in mitigation and post-disaster recovery education and advocacy and to equip its members to more effectively communicate our findings to policy makers and the public-at-large.