Educated in a FLASH, Part 1

Happy New Year! This week’s blog was written by Branch Engineer Randy Shackelford, P.E., who has been an engineer for the Simpson Strong-Tie Southeast Region since 1994. He is an active member of several influential committees, including the AISI Committee on Framing Standards, the American Wood Council Wood Design Standards Committee, and the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes Technical Advisory Committee. He is vice-president and member of the Board of Directors of the National Storm Shelter Association. Randy has been a guest speaker at numerous outside seminars and workshops as a connector and high wind expert. Here is Randy’s post:

As part of our mission to “help people build safer structures economically,” Simpson Strong-Tie works with many non-profit groups around the country, including the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, and the National Storm Shelter Association. Another group we work with is FLASH, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes.

The mission of FLASH is “Strengthening homes and safeguarding families from disasters of all kind.” FLASH recently celebrated its 15th year, and Simpson Strong-Tie has been right there with them for most of those years.

Creating the StormStruck® Experience

The post-show area of the StormStruck exhibit includes this display showcasing a continuous load path.
The post-show area of the StormStruck exhibit includes this display showcasing a continuous load path.

Perhaps the biggest outcome of our work with FLASH is our partnership in “StormStruck: A Tale of Two Homes®, located at INNOVENTIONS in Epcot® at the Walt Disney World Resort. StormStruck is a fun, interactive 4D experience that teaches visitors the steps they can take to protect their homes and families during severe weather. Visitors experience a storm and its effects on the “house” they are sitting in, and then decide how to best rebuild to resist the next storm. StormStruck has been seen by almost 800,000 people in the past year, and more than four million since opening in 2008. If you visit EPCOT®, be sure to head over to INNOVENTIONS East to see our exhibit.

Research Presented by Scholarship Winners
FLASH recently held its annual conference, which was attended by representatives from our McKinney, Texas branch. As a member of the Technical Advisory Committee, we were briefed on the technical work currently underway, as well as heard presentations by the five StormStruck scholarship winners on their research:

  • “Estimation of Tornado Loads on a Wood-framed Gable Structure,” Simpson Strong-Tie scholarship winner
  • “Building Resilient Coastal Communities,” RenaissanceRe scholarship winner
  • “Failure of Asphalt Shingles,” State Farm scholarship recipient
  • “Analysis of Supercells in Outer Rainbands of Hurricanes,” WeatherPredict Consulting winner
  • “Emergency Preparedness Self-Efficacy,” FLASH scholarship winner.

New Work by FLASH
After the five presentations, staff and researchers for FLASH gave an update on work currently underway, including a college course on building codes being developed. Research showed that college engineering and architecture degree plans often do not include class work on building codes. When completed, this course will be available to colleges as a complete module ready for instructing.

The second update was on the “StormStruck Curriculum” being developed by graduate researchers. This program will provide training material for Florida middle school science teachers to use to teach their students about preparedness and resisting natural hazards. The third update was on FLASH’s program of wildfire mitigation. Loss of homes to wildfire can be significantly reduced if homeowners knew the steps to take to make their home safer. In the final update, the FLASH team shared a building code analysis undertaken for the FLASH Texas State Collaborative. This analysis underscores the fact that, since Texas does not have a statewide building code, each individual city adopts its own code at its own pace, and also adopts its own amendments. The result is an inconsistent patchwork of protection for building owners and homeowners.

The next post will recap some of the very interesting panel discussions during the actual conference.

Paul McEntee

Author: Paul McEntee

A couple of years back we hosted a “Take your daughter or son to work day,” which was a great opportunity for our children to find out what their parents did. We had different activities for the kids to learn about careers and the importance of education in opening up career opportunities. People often ask me what I do for Simpson Strong-Tie and I sometimes laugh about how my son Ryan responded to a questionnaire he filled out that day:

Q.   What is your mom/dad's job?
A.   Goes and gets coffee and sits at his desk

Q.   What does your mom/dad actually do at work?
A.   Walks in the test lab and checks things

When I am not checking things in the lab or sitting at my desk drinking coffee, I manage Engineering Research and Development for Simpson Strong-Tie, focusing on new product development for connectors and lateral systems.

I graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and I am a licensed Civil and Structural Engineer in California. Prior to joining Simpson Strong-Tie, I worked for 10 years as a consulting structural engineer designing commercial, industrial, multi-family, mixed-use and retail projects. I was fortunate in those years to work at a great engineering firm that did a lot of everything. This allowed me to gain experience designing with wood, structural steel, concrete, concrete block and cold-formed steel as well as working on many seismic retrofits of historic unreinforced masonry buildings.