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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Ex-PR transportation chief appointed to chair federal construction safety committee



José M. Izquierdo Encarnación

By The Star Staff


José M. Izquierdo Encarnación, a former island transportation and public works secretary and secretary of state, has been named chairman of the Advisory Committee of the National Construction Safety Team (NCSTAC), which is attached to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).


José M. Izquierdo Encarnación, a former island transportation and public works secretary and secretary of state, has been named chairman of the Advisory Committee of the National Construction Safety Team (NCSTAC), which is attached to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).


NIST recommendations and findings are submitted annually to the U.S. Congress to improve building codes and standards nationwide. Izquierdo Encarnación, an engineer, is the first Puerto Rican to be part of the advisory committee and the first Latino to chair it.


The National Construction Safety Team (NCST) is a federal agency dedicated to the rigorous investigation of disasters of various types. The advisory committee is made up of technical experts in engineering, public health and social sciences. The law that gave rise to the NCST was passed in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and has been fundamental in the analysis of disasters such as the collapse of the Twin Towers in New York City, where the NIST carried out a groundbreaking study on the performance of buildings and issued evidence-based recommendations to improve building codes and standards.


“It is a true honor to lead this organization and contribute to improving construction nationwide,” said Izquierdo Encarnación, who begins his second three-year term as a member of the committee and his first as leader. “The disaster caused by Hurricane Maria, the forest fires in Hawaii, and the collapse of the Surfside Condominium in Miami are just some of the disasters evaluated by this committee. The recommendations of the NCSTAC [...] have great weight in the decisions related to construction safety in the United States Congress.”


Prior to 9/11, the NIST had already distinguished itself as a leading agency in disaster research of various types, dating back to the 1971 San Fernando Valley earthquake in southern California. The passage of the NCST Act solidified and now facilitates the NIST’s ability to conduct such research and enhance cooperation with other federal agencies.


An essential objective of the NCSTAC is to assist in identifying the causes of construction collapses.


“Knowing the origin of the failure in a particular way not only provides information about what needs to be reviewed in future building codes to prevent similar situations but also provides comfort and understanding to survivors and the families of the victims,” Izquierdo Encarnación said. “Likewise, potential risks in other existing buildings and methods to mitigate risks in the future are analyzed.”


Since the NCST’s establishment, NIST recommendations have impacted 40 codes, guides and standards in disaster characterization, building and shelter design, and communications during emergencies.

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