For Immediate Release - October 18 2006

Contact: Mayor's Office of Communications



Division to provide improved management of life and property

SAN FRANCISCO Mayor Gavin Newsom and Acting Director Amy Lee today announced a new management unit, the Structural Safety and Emergency Management Division (SSEM), within the City’s Department of Building Inspection.

"As this week’s headline news reminds us, we’re in one of the world’s most at-risk seismic zones," the Mayor said. "That’s why my Administration makes seismic safety and emergency response management one of our top priorities. With DBI’s responsibilities for protecting and enforcing San Francisco’s structural and life safety codes, this management decision strengthens the City’s abilities to respond immediately and effectively when the next Big One occurs," Mayor Newsom said.

DBI Acting Director Amy Lee added, "We’ve had a number of pointed reminders over the past year about urban seismic and other natural disaster vulnerabilities – making clear the need to tighten our organizational focus. SSEM will help us to be better prepared."

The Mayor noted the new DBI division would be particularly helpful as San Francisco builds more dynamically-designed high-rise developments to meet growing future demand.

The SSEM Division will implement new seismic safety programs, including the proposed automatic gas shut-off valve, the seismic risk reduction of soft/weak-story, open-front wood-frame buildings and the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research (PEER) Center Tall Buildings Initiative.

In addition, SSEM will work jointly with DBI’s Technical Services Division to develop effective training programs, code updates, Administrative Bulletins, and provide oversight of the Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety (CAPSS). According to Ray Lui, the DBI structural engineer named to run the SSEM Division, the next phase of the CAPSS study will identify the City’s most vulnerable buildings over the next two years, and make recommendations to implement effective mitigation measures to protect the people in these buildings. "We’ll also be examining repair standards and developing effective practical steps to respond to damage caused by a severe earthquake," Lui noted.

SSEM also will be responsible for ongoing programs, including the Emergency Management Program and the Building Occupancy Resumption Program (BORP). It will be DBI’s liaison with other City departments including the Department of Public Works, the Office of Emergency Services and Homeland Security, and the San Francisco Fire Department. SSEM will report to DBI’s Permit Services Deputy Director Wing Lau and will receive oversight by Chief Engineer, Hanson Tom.

The Department of Building Inspection’s mission is to oversee the effective, efficient, fair and safe enforcement of the City and County of San Francisco’s building, housing, plumbing, electrical, mechanical, and disability access codes required to oversee San Francisco’s nearly 150,000 building inventory. Visit for more information.

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