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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • 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 uses it Activation and Escalation criteria to determine the appropriate response level for a given event, in consultation with the relevant Hazard Advisory Board(s). See Escalation Criteria
  • 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 its Level 1 response. Level 2 responses will deploy a 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 Level 2 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 3-year NSF Grant from NSF (CMMI 2103550) which supports StEER’s basic operations with funding for member deployments, as well as research and development funds for new capabilities.
  • 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 tier (Tier 1-4) based on their affiliation and prior experience. Membership tiers are re-assigned annually as members acquire greater experience and training in post-disaster reconnaissance.
  • 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 Tiers participate on VASTs, VASTs serve as an important venue for Tier 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: VASTs lead the Level 1 responses, assembling 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. VASTs may continue to support Level 2 and 3 responses by remotely reviewing performance assessments and other data collected by the FAST to support the authorship of 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. After all FAST data collection has concluded, VAST members may assist with the review and analysis of the collected data to generate conference or 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 in the subsequent FAST and may even prepare the StEER member better for field data collection in a given event. However, since a membership Tier 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 two 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 building owners. 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 Daily Summaries, 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. The individual does not need to be a US citizen. However, per NSF regulations, individuals employed by foreign institutions cannot receive financial support from StEER to offset costs of participation on FASTs.
  • 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. 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 to jointly collect data, but handle their own logistics. Working together, these teams may 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 fulcrumapp.com to access the App used currently for performance 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 Tiers 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 Tier 2 StEER member. StEER members at Tier 4 are generally appointed as FAST Leads.
  • How many participants constitute the average Field Assessment Team Structural (FAST)?
    At Level 2, FASTs are small, generally 1-2 persons in a vehicle imaging data; multiple vehicles in such configurations may be employed for some events. At Level 3, the scale of the event response as well as the availability of accommodations and transport in the affected region will dictate team size. A response may leverage multiple teams of 2-4 persons working in parallel or series. It is not uncommon for a large event to have a dozen FAST members.
  • 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.
  • 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 listed at https://converge.colorado.edu/research-networks/. These groups work together to exchange information and best practices, as well to jointly respond to events when appropriate. In this regard, StEER can be viewed as a part of the Converge node within NHERI. The Leadership Corps includes DesignSafe-CI, the RAPID EF, and the Network Coordination Office, which StEER works closely with in its operations. The RAPID EF and DesignSafe-CI are crucial partners in the StEER’s data collection, processing and curation workflows. StEER also partners with the NHERI SimCenter to support inventory generation and regional simulation objectives using StEER data for machine learning and validation tasks. StEER is also a partner with the new NICHE facility, currently in the design phase, providing field observations that can be used to recreate realistic storm scenarios in that future facility. Finally, StEER is promoting an observation-driven Science Plan that will further identify research questions illuminated by StEER event responses that can leverage one or more NHERI sites to conduct additional research and development necessary to advance mitigation technologies, revisions of codes and standards, and other tools to support risk assessment and mitigation. This includes the circulation of Research Opportunities identifying areas worthy of continued research and proposal development immediately after major events.
  • How does StEER interface with the general public, legislators and municipal authorities?
    During its responses, StEER generally interfaces with the public (including 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 FAST members engage ethically and responsibly with these key stakeholders. More importantly, StEER aspires to translate the learnings from its missions broadly. StEER’s leadership has worked when possible to provide access to its data, briefings, expert opinions and reports to local, state, and federal officials. StEER also engages with local and national media outlets to share findings and promote more resilient construction practices. Finally, StEER’s new Reconnaissance engagement and communications hub (REACH) promotes direct outreach to affected communities and key stakeholders using tailored communications.
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