Sound-construction proponents salute Safe Building, FEMA Reform Acts

The National Concrete Masonry Association– and National Ready Mixed Concrete Association-backed BuildStrong Coalition has endorsed the Safe Building Code Incentive Act (H.R. 1748), providing additional disaster relief assistance to states that adopt and enforce strong code measures. Uniform, statewide adoption and enforcement of model building codes helps to eliminate long-term risks affecting people, property, the environment and ultimately the economy, the Washington, D.C.-based Coalition contends.

The Safe Building Code Incentive Act is the centerpiece of the group’s legislative agenda, and was introduced in mid-April by U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL). With billions of dollars spent annually by the federal government and private sector on disaster relief and the rebuilding of communities, legislation that encourages widespread adoption of model building codes will enhance the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s goal of making sure cities and towns are better equipped to prepare for, prevent the occurrence of, respond to and recover from disasters. A 2005 National Institute of Building Sciences’ study concluded that for every $1 spent on mitigation at the federal level, the American taxpayer saves $4 in disaster assistance.

The Safe Building Code Incentive Act was proposed as an amendment to the FEMA Disaster Assistance Reform Act of 2015 (H.R. 1471) during a House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee markup hearing on the latter. “This amendment would simply add the text of the Safe Building Code Incentive Act into the bill,” said U.S. Rep Jeff Denham (R-CA). “Strong building codes are a proven defense against natural disasters. As I’ve seen in my home state of California, strong building codes have saved countless lives and properties from damage that result in earthquake activity. Without strong building codes many communities in California would be at significant risk if even a minor earthquake were to strike.”

The FEMA Disaster Assistance Reform Act authorizes a study of trends in the rising costs of disasters in the United States. It will lead to recommendations reducing the loss of life and property, and enabling cost savings and improved efficiency and effectiveness for FEMA. After the markup, the FEMA Reform legislation was passed out of the T&I Committee. “[It] authorizes a much needed assessment of trends in disaster losses and will provide valuable information on ways to better manage spiraling costs for the American taxpayer,” affirms BuildStrong Coalition Chairman Jimi Grande. “We are confident this study will produce credible recommendations on ways to streamline federal disaster spending in order to bend the cost curve for future generations by putting more money on budget for mitigation.”

“This bill commissions a comprehensive review of growing disaster losses and response costs the nation has experienced over the last decades. Experts estimate that over $1 trillion in disaster losses have occurred in North America since 1980,” says House Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Chair Lou Barletta (R-PA). “We need to understand why and what can be done to reduce those losses to protect our citizens. It’s been over 20 years since we’ve had a comprehensive look at disaster spending. I believe it’s time for a big picture assessment of what is driving disaster losses and costs and review if we as a nation are responding in the most appropriate and cost effective way.”

Former FEMA Director Robert David Paulison called on Congress earlier this year to take a proactive approach to disaster mitigation by establishing a Blue Ribbon Commission to study the rapidly rising costs associated with disaster relief. A BuildStrong Coalition advisor, he notes how natural disaster declarations have spiked from an average of 23 per year during the Reagan Administration to 65 per year during the Obama Administration.