Resilience advocates enlighten lawmakers on disaster mitigation, funding reform

Source: BuildStrong Coalition, Washington, D.C.

A recent hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management saw BuildStrong Coalition representatives testify on mitigating damage and recovering quickly from disasters as part of the T&I Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America plan.

BuildStrong Senior Advisor and former Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator (2005-2009) R. David Paulison highlighted the need for reforming the nation’s disaster spending model to focus on mitigation through actions including: enhancing pre-disaster mitigation funding; consolidating disaster spending under FEMA; and, creating a post-disaster mitigation incentive that rewards states embracing modern building codes. He also advocated reforming the disaster cost share system by reducing federal exposure from 75 percent to 60 percent, and allowing states to buy up their federal share by taking certain mitigation steps—among them adopting and enforcing a statewide building code.

“We have a moment to make America resilient again and save both lives and taxpayer dollars,” Paulison assured committee members. “In my 35 years of dealing with natural disasters at the federal, state, and local levels, I can tell you that our federal policy regarding disasters does not do nearly enough to prevent infrastructure failure before a disaster strikes.”

Nationwide Property and Casualty Operations President and COO Mark Berven cited the need to reform disaster spending policy, indicating that the federal government’s current approach has “left communities across the nation vulnerable ahead of the next storm.” He also highlighted the prospect of improving the nation’s infrastructure as an opportunity for the Trump Administration and Congress to create a lasting impact on enhancing disaster resiliency.

The BuildStrong Coalition spans firefighters, emergency responders, insurers, engineers, architects, contractors and manufacturers, as well as consumer organizations, code specialists, and other stakeholders in resilient buildings and communities. —