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News: SEAOC News

A President's Message from SEAOC President Rafael Sabelli

Friday, March 20, 2020  

By Rafael Sabelli, SE, SEAOC President 2020

In this month’s president’s column, I will address SEAOC’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Before addressing that topic directly, I encourage every member to respond to the 2020 SE3 survey, which will be launching in April. In normal times, the ability of our profession to accept and support people as multi-faceted individuals, with families, commitments, and interests that include but are not limited to engineering, is vital to the well-being of our members and our profession. In these days of shelter-in-place protocols, closed schools, vulnerable elders, and work-at-home measures, our ability to support work-life balance is even more critical. Please respond to the survey; the link will be sent out in early April.

As our members take actions to secure the health and wellbeing of their families and to continue their professional lives, they can rest assured that SEAOC is taking appropriate steps to safeguard the continued function and long-term operation of our organization. (I am sure everyone has been made aware of best practices for “social distancing” and other prophylactic measures. I will not reiterate those, but rather direct the reader to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What is SEAOC doing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic? We are currently working on several fronts:

1.     The 2020 SEAOC Convention.

SEAOC is continuing convention planning while considering every outcome, including (but not limited to) the necessity of cancellation. When the registration opens, we are working to guarantee registration fees will be fully refundable. Similarly, we are working with the hotel to ensure adequate penalty-free cancellation periods to allow members flexibility. We are drawing on the experience of other Industry organizations that have adjusted their convention and conference plans in response to closures, as we seek to protect our members.

Another important eventuality is that travel restrictions and social-distancing protocols are lifted in time to allow our convention to happen. The lessons from this event can and should inform the practice of structural engineering and our disaster planning for the foreseeable future. It will be important for us to share, and SEAOC intends to be a forum for sharing these lessons. The convention can provide an excellent opportunity to do so, just as last-year’s convention gave us the opportunity to discuss lessons learned from California’s wildfires.

We will continue to monitor the CDC and State of Hawaii recommendations as the date approaches and will provide additional updates via the newsletter or interim emails.

2.     Committee meetings.

SEAOC has utilized remote meetings for many years to reduce costs and environmental impact. This mode of operation continues, and as the committee meetings of our member organizations shift to this mode, we are encouraging both sharing of expertise in these media and broader participation in meetings. The SEAOC office can provide technical support and resources in moving committee meetings online.

SEAOC members are encouraged to broaden their network and participate in meetings statewide. See SEAOCC; SEAONC; SEAOSC; and SEAOSD for contacts and listings.

3.     Economic impact on members.

We are monitoring the potential economic impact of the pandemic. As city agencies respond to the need to limit in-person interaction, it appears reasonable that this will begin to translate into a slowdown of plan review and inspections. As our members and their clients react to extended schedules, we will look for ways to share trends. Additionally, as with the 2007-2009 recession, we are planning ways to maintain membership and support our members through a potentially difficult period.

4.     Potential services to our members.

As the particulars of structural engineering practice continue to evolve under changing circumstances, SEAOC will continue to develop tools and guidance for best practices. These now surely include best practices for work-at-home operations. (Did you know that web-cam meetings are a great way to see how often you actually touch your face?)

We also will be sharing experiences, ideas, and resources for modified operations with architects, plan review, construction. In particular, we invite members to share experiences related to ongoing construction challenges, plan review, etc., via a special email address We will aggregate and anonymously share some of these experiences and use the trends to understand emerging needs of the profession and how and where SEAOC can serve these needs.

5.     Special communications.

Look for interim emails from SEAOC. Our monthly newsletter may be too infrequent for fast-changing issues that require communication.

6.      SEAOC office and continued operation

SEAOC will continue to actively support the practice of structural engineering in California with its technical and practice committees and its legislative efforts.The SEAOC office remains operational, however, for the time being, pop-ins are discouraged, and communication should be limited to phone (916.447.1198) or email

Please rest assured that SEAOC is planning to continue its service to its members especially in the areas of most pressing need. I wish you all the best.