NSPE's Gateway to Private Practice Fall 2013 

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Choices, Change, and Jogging
Eric West, P.E.

I got home at about 6 o’clock, changed into comfortable clothes and went around hugging all my kids. We had dinner, jumped on the trampoline, and I got them in bed pretty close to our typical bedtime. I’d been charging hard all day, and I had no desire to lace up my running shoes and hit the pavement. I had to debate with myself for a few minutes, but eventually I pulled up the next workout on my running program and headed out the door. This has been my routine now for almost two months, 2-3 days a week. I don’t run far, but I run and walk and jog, as my iPhone tells me to.

For the first 28 years of my life, I burned so many calories just doing the things I loved (basketball, etc.) that I never exercised for the sake of exercise. Then came 3 children over a period of six years, and I suddenly found myself looking back at a decade of taking in more calories than I was burning.

Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you are there. I’m guessing it’s different for everyone, but for me, I finally made a choice for change. Change is hard. Change means putting on your running shoes at 9pm when you’d much rather sit and watch TV. Or getting up 30 minutes early, when you’d much rather hit the snooze button. Change is a battle in your mind to press on, when much of you screams to stop. Change is not necessarily about being happier (especially in the short run), but I’ve convinced myself it’s about being better. I use that desire to motivate myself when it would be easier to turn on an episode of Duck Dynasty and eat some ice cream.

I hate to admit that I had a task on my electronic To Do List for several years telling me to get an exercise routine. I knew what I needed to do. I even knew how to do it. I just didn’t.

So what do you need to change in your life? What needs to change in your business? Have you gone a decade without being intentional? Make a choice today to do something about it, and not fall into your familiar routine. I’m making changes by making choices.

If you have some good ideas about changes, why don’t you join the discussion at the NSPE-PEPP Linked-In Group.  [ return to top ]

Fall Ethics Forum

Each webinar is only $99 for NSPE members. For more information and to register, please visit the NSPE web site.

Ethics Forum: A Conversation about Conflicts of Interest with Vendors and Colleagues

Join NSPE Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel Arthur Schwartz and a panel of engineering ethics experts for a one-hour discussion on issues relating to serving as a consultant to a redevelopment authority, loans from contractors, spouse as vendor, opinions of engineering experts, and other issues.

Participants will be able to pose questions to the panelists, be provided with written handout materials, and will be able to participate in a post webinar quiz, as required by state engineering licensure boards.

October 23, 2013, 12:30–1:30 p.m. (E.D.T.)

Ethics Forum: A Conversation about Conflicts of Interest and the Public

Join NSPE Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel Arthur Schwartz and a panel of engineering ethics experts for a one-hour discussion on issues relating to community service, design and construction of a house in a flood zone, serving as the chairman of a home owners association, serving on a hospital board, and other issues.

Participants will be able to pose questions to the panelists, be provided with written handout materials, and will be able to participate in a post webinar quiz, as required by state engineering licensure boards.

November 20, 2013, 12:30–1:30 p.m. (E.S.T.) [ return to top ]

Emergency Planning

While engineers cannot prevent most emergencies or disasters from occurring, they can help minimize the impact of a disaster on a practice by being prepared. A disaster can shut down a firm’s business, disrupt operations, cause physical or environmental damage, threaten the firm’s financial standing or image, or cause deaths or significant injuries to employees, clients, or the public.

Emergency management is the process of preparing for, responding to, and recovering from an emergency situation or disaster. It is a dynamic process; not every emergency situation is a disaster. Every firm does not need to react in the same way. What could be an inconvenience to a large national firm may destroy the operations of a smaller firm. What could lead to a forced “vacation” for a sole practitioner could obliterate the records—and the reputation—of a corporate practice.

Planning for a Firm’s Future

Planning for the contingencies of an emergency situation is both logical and necessary. Developing procedures helps firms fulfill their moral responsibility to protect employees, serve the community, and safeguard the environment. A rational contingency plan effectively enhances a firm’s ability to recover from financial losses, loss of market share, damages to records and equipment, or business interruption. Being prepared enhances a company’s image and credibility with employees, customers, colleagues, and the community. In addition, it may reduce property and business insurance premiums.

There are some questions that clearly underscore the importance of a firm’s disaster recovery and continuity planning. For engineering firms, ask the following:

  • Can all or part of a work site cease to exist for one day or permanently without jeopardizing the firm’s viability?
  • Would the firm survive the financial disaster created by loss of work in progress, equipment, records, or the most important assets—employees?
  • How would the firm respond immediately and continually to recreate the business and fulfill the needs of clients?

Developing a Contingency Plan

A commitment to make emergency management part of a firm’s culture must be followed by a vulnerability analysis, the development of a plan, and its integration into the operations of the firm. By creating and maintaining a comprehensive emergency management program, a firm will be able to return more quickly to normal operations.

Establish a Planning Team

There must be an individual or group in charge of developing the emergency management plan. Firms that have experienced significant interruptions in their normal operations will confirm that the planning for an emergency needs to be a high-level activity that involves top management.

Analyze Capabilities and Hazards

Risk management requires the analysis of the probability of an unfavorable outcome and the creation of a response to avoid or manage the risk. Information about current capabilities and possible hazards should be analyzed. Then, a vulnerability analysis should be conducted to determine the firm’s capabilities for handling emergencies. This effort assesses the vulnerability of a firm’s facility by exploring the probability and potential impact of each emergency. This analysis, which entails assigning probabilities, estimating impact, and assessing resources, guides the planning process. 

Firms must look both internally and externally when planning for emergencies. Most emergency situations are within a firm’s facility; others involve an entire community. Meeting with government agencies, community organizations, and utility companies to ask about potential emergencies and their plans and available resources for a response can assist a firm’s analysis.

Consider what could happen as a result of prohibited access to the facility, the loss of electric power, or the failure of communication systems. Analyze the potential human impact of each emergency—the possibility of death or injury. Consider the potential property losses and damages and assess the potential business impact, such as the disruption of current projects and the potential loss of clients.

A checklist of issues that should be considered during an impact assessment includes the following:

  • Interruption of day-to-day business activities;
  • Inability of employees to report to work;
  • Inadequacy of communication with clients;
  • Violation of contractual agreements;
  • Imposition of fines and penalties or legal costs; and
  • Interruption of interprofessional collaboration.

Assume the Worst

If the physical facility housing a firm’s practice is permanently destroyed, what would be important to the firm immediately and what must be recreated in order to continue?

Develop the Plan

The emergency management plan needs to focus on details. In preparation, a firm must base its plan on determinations from the adequacy of firm and disaster insurance and the particular skills and characteristics of the firm and its employees. The planning effort should include the following basic components:

  • Complete emergency evacuation plan;
  • Plan for an alternative work site during the emergency;
  • Procedures that specify under what circumstances a facility will close, who makes the decision, how the decision is communicated, and whether employees are compensated;
  • Recognition of plans for alternative electricity, water, and other routine public services;
  • Preparation of a public relations spokesperson with responsibilities and authority carefully and thoroughly defined;
  • Requirement that individuals with key responsibilities keep copies of the emergency plan at their homes in the event of an emergency;
  • Procedure to update the plan at least annually; and
  • Determination if there are any local industry-specific groups that offer support, such as professional societies, trade associations, or business alliance groups.

In next month’s newsletter, we will discuss the emergency response and recovery phases.

© 2013, Victor O. Schinnerer & Co. Inc. Statements concerning legal matters should be understood to be general observations based solely on our experience as risk consultants and may not be relied upon as legal advice, which we are not authorized to provide. All such matters should be reviewed with a qualified advisor. Victor O. Schinnerer & Co. Inc. is managing underwriter for the Schinnerer and CNA Professional Liability Insurance Program, commended by NSPE/PEPP since 1957. [ return to top ]

SEC Approves Final Municipal Advisor Registration Rule

In a victory for the engineering community, the SEC announced that engineers do not have to register if they provide engineering advice such as feasibility studies and cash flow analysis and similar activities related to engineering aspects of a project. On September 18, the Securities and Exchange Commission unanimously approved the final municipal advisor registration rule which, pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, requires municipal advisers to permanently register with the SEC. The final rule clarifies the law's engineering exemption, which exempts engineers providing "engineering advice" from the municipal advisor definition. 

However, this exemption does not apply to activities in which an engineer provides advice regarding municipal financial products or the issuance of municipal securities. For example, an engineer that is engaged by a municipal entity or obligated person to prepare revenue projections to support the structure of an issuance of municipal securities would be providing advice outside the scope of the engineering exclusion and therefore would be engaging in municipal advisory activity. However, an engineer could advise a municipal entity about whether a project could be safely or reliably completed with the available funds and provide engineering advice about other alternative projects, cost estimates, or funding schedules without engaging in municipal advisory activity. Furthermore, an engineering company that informs a municipal entity or obligated person of potential tax savings, discounts, or rebates on supplies would be acting within the scope of the engineering exclusion. Read the SEC's full ruling, as it pertains to the engineering exemption. 

[ return to top ]

Recent Court Decisions of Relevance to Contract Documents

Some recent court case issues include:

  • Limitation of liability clause in design contract. SAMS Hotel Group, LLC, v. Environs, Inc. United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit (2013)
  • Consequences of not complying with express requirements of request for proposals. Matter of Alares, LLC,United States Government Accountability Office (2012)
  • Statute of limitations for action under the False Claims Act. United States ex rel. Benjamin Carter v. Halliburton Co., United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit (2013)

For a complete list of cases and summaries, visit the EJCDC Web site

[ return to top ]

Navigating Sustainability

Navigating Sustainability: The opportunities and pitfalls of designing and constructing green buildings was prepared by Gretchen Heberling, the 2013 Milton F. Lunch Research Fellow under the sponsorship of Victor O. Schinnerer & Co. Inc. and the National Society of Professional Engineers.

Many misconceptions about the construction costs, energy performance, and innovative technologies of green buildings persist currently, despite scientific studies demonstrating that sustainable buildings can be constructed at market value, on time, usually perform better than traditional buildings, and have higher levels of occupant comfort. Studies within the past decade, along with their supporting data, are presented to convey the efficacy of sustainable design. Trends in green building and the construction industry as a whole are analyzed. Green building rating systems, standards, and codes are explained and several are investigated in greater detail. Though sustainable buildings are generally healthier and safer, several aspects of their design and construction contribute to unique additional risks. These risks, best practices for design professionals in order to mitigate them, and relevant contract documents are presented. A list of resources for project teams working on green construction projects is also provided. 

Download your free copy here[ return to top ]


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PEPP 2013–14
Executive Board

Eric L West (Chair)
Midland, TX

Chris K Richard (Vice Chair)
Lafayette, LA

Dawn Edgell (Immediate Past Chair) 
Aurora, IL

Terrance N Glunt
Boca Raton, FL

Daniel Gilbert
Lexington, KY






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