Category Archive: News

BuildStrong Statement on Disaster Aid Supplemental Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The BuildStrong Coalition applauds Congressman Jeff Denham (CA-10) for speaking out in support of the inclusion of strong disaster mitigation reforms, including building codes, in the forthcoming Congressional disaster relief funding bill. The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday passed a $36.5 billion supplemental spending bill which will go a long way in helping recovery efforts for recent hurricanes and wildfires in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, California, and elsewhere in the Gulf and Southeast. However, Denham’s remarks on the House floor highlight the importance of incorporating proactive measures that mitigate the effects of future disasters in the next iteration of relief legislation, which will likely be introduced in the coming months.

 

“While some of our states have building codes and are addressing the impacts so [there won’t be this devastation in the future], we need to make sure that these reforms are passed in this coming bill as well,” Denham said while addressing the chamber.

“The BuildStrong Coalition supports the statements made by Congressman Jeff Denham and encourages the inclusion of preventative measures in future legislation that would save both lives and taxpayer dollars,” said BuildStrong Chairman Jimi Grande.

Research has repeatedly demonstrated that every $1 invested pre-disaster saves $3-4 post-disaster. The BuildStrong Coalition National Mitigation Investment Agenda leverages this fact and outlines several important changes to the federal disaster investment strategy that are designed to accomplish this objective. Core tenets include:

  • Creating a federal incentive for states to invest proactively. This would be accomplished by providing FEMA with the discretion to lower the federal cost share for future disasters for states and communities that have failed to take FEMA-approved actions to reduce future disaster costs and losses.
  • Establishing a National Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. The program would award funding to states to develop, implement, and enforce an approved statewide building code and other cost-effective mitigation activities. Knowing the proven cost-saving power of pre-disaster mitigation, this program would be funded by shifting a percentage of the money appropriated to the Disaster Relief Fund to be invested proactively, ahead of the disaster.

The BuildStrong Coalition is a group of firefighters, emergency responders, insurers, engineers, architects, contractors and manufacturers, as well as consumer organizations, code specialists, and many others committed to building a more resilient America. Additional information about these provisions and other methods for saving lives and taxpayer dollars are available at buildstrongamerica.com.

On Hurricane Andrew’s 25th anniversary, we must prevent damage from monster storms

By Lou Barletta and R. David Paulison

USA Today – August 24, 2017

 

The legacy of the storm is in the lessons learned on how we can best prepare communities to withstand the devastating effects of natural disasters.


Twenty-five years ago Thursday, Hurricane Andrew made landfall in South Florida, forever altering the landscape and history of the region.

By the time it was over, Andrew was responsible for 65 fatalities, the damage and destruction of more than 100,000 homes, and nearly $25 billion in damages across the Gulf Coast and in the neighboring Bahamas. But the lasting impact of the storm extends beyond the lives lost, homes destroyed, businesses shuttered and communities wiped away — the legacy of the storm is in the lessons learned on how we can best prepare communities to withstand the devastating effects of natural disasters.

The time to act on these lessons and make America resilient again is overdue. Without making significant reforms to our nation’s disaster assistance system and investing in pre-disaster mitigation, we are unnecessarily putting lives at risk and wasting billions in taxpayer money. Consider that $1 spent on pre-disaster mitigation saves $4 in recovery costs.

For years, we have been working together to better understand how to prepare for, respond to, recover from and mitigate against hazards, both natural and man-made, as well as how to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. The endless cycle of rebuilding and repairing is no longer an option. During a hearing before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee earlier this year, Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., emphasized this approach and called on policymakers and the administration to “be bold” when addressing these issues.

With the focus of the Trump administration and Congress on rebuilding our infrastructure, we have an opportunity to ensure that the lessons from Hurricane Andrew are not forgotten, but are used to make our country stronger. By including straightforward and cohesive pre-disaster mitigation reforms in the administration’s infrastructure plan, we can shift our country away from ineffective, reactive post-disaster spending practices to a proactive system that protects our families, our businesses and our communities from disasters.

First, we must reform the federal cost share for disasters. By creating incentives for states to invest in mitigation proactively, we can curb state reliance on federal post-disaster dollars, which cover the bulk of disaster recovery costs, regardless of whether a state has taken steps to prevent against future damages.

Second, we must shift the spending from post-disaster to pre-disaster. From 2011 to 2014, the ratio of pre- to post-disaster funding was 1-to-14.  This imbalance can be corrected — without additional federal spending — by competitively awarding funding to states that invest in forward-thinking building practices.

Third, we must offer assistance to disaster-prone areas to develop, implement and enforce resilient building and rebuilding practices. Too often, structures damaged or destroyed by an event are built back the same way. Helping states implement stronger building standards will prevent damage and lower costs in the long term.

Last, we must consolidate the administration of federal disaster programs. As a former administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and as a chairman of the House subcommittee charged with overseeing FEMA, we know that the federal government has an overly fragmented, reactive approach to disasters. The creation of a unified federal disaster assistance effort with strict spending standards would maximize program efficiency and effectiveness, and be more accountable to taxpayers.

These reforms represent a partnership between the rights and responsibilities of states and the duties of the federal government, which can reward prepared states based on their smart resilience and other mitigation efforts. In an exercise similar to the distribution of federal funds for highways based on speed limits, states can act in their own best interest when it comes to mitigation while the federal government maintains its responsibility to taxpayers.

At the time, Hurricane Andrew was the most expensive hurricane in U.S. history. That title has since been overtaken by storms such as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, and the trend is only continuing. Forecasters are predicting the most active Atlantic hurricane season since 2010.

Now is the time to enhance our nation’s infrastructure through disaster mitigation efforts that will save countless lives and taxpayer dollars before disaster strikes.


Since 2013, Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., has served as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s subcommittee overseeing the Federal Emergency Management Agency. R. David Paulison was the FEMA administrator from 2005 to 2009. He was also the Miami Dade County fire chief when Hurricane Andrew struck Florida and helped spearhead the emergency response and rescue efforts.

Read the op-ed here.

Pork. It’s What’s For Disaster.

by Caleb Howe

RedState – 10/20/15

 

If there is one thing conservatives know, it’s that government is great at using money efficiently and getting the job done properly, in a timely manner, and for a reasonable price. Right? But even so, let’s just examine an example here.

A few years ago, the base and the beltway goons (and people like Chris Christie) got into it over disaster relief to aid the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Among other things, conservatives argued the aid was bloated with pork. The establishmentarian response was “conservatives want people to linger in water-logged buildings with no power” or something. Surely the word racist appeared somewhere. But then Chris Christie hugged Obama and ultimately, after a bunch of outcry, Congress passed an aid package and everybody moved on to the next thing.

Now, three years after Hurricane Sandy hit, people in affected areas remain ired and mired, Trump has made waves saying there is still a ton of work to be done and George Bush caused 9/11, and – now this is the part that will shock you – a report has come out that shows the amount of waste and inefficiency in the government’s spending on Sandy aid has been its own kind of catastrophe.

Some choice excerpts—your tax dollars have been appropriated, but not spent, with the federal government just holding onto the cash to do… whatever, and to do it pretty badly:

[T]he Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board was authorized by Congress to “develop and use information technology resources and oversight mechanisms to detect and remediate waste, fraud, and abuse” in the awarding and spending of the funds as a part of the Sandy Supplemental. Since the Sandy Supplemental became public law in January of 2013, the RATB has issued six quarterly reports to Congress with the Board’s findings.

In its final report to Congress, the RATB found $26 billion of the $47.9 billion in funding appropriated by the Sandy Supplemental had been awarded as of March 21, 2015, with a total of $15 billion of those funds having been paid out. As shown in Figure 6, the Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Fund and Department of Transportation’s Public Transit Emergency Relief Program hold the overwhelming majority of unspent funding from the Sandy Supplemental. Of the $15.2 billion designated to the Community Development Fund, only $2.79 billion has been paid out. The Public Transit Emergency Relief Program holds the second largest reserve of unspent funds, with only $0.91 billion of $10.35 billion having been paid out. In fact, of the $36.99 billion in non-FEMA funding designated to government programs in the Sandy Supplemental, only $6.93 billion has been paid out.

Where money has been paid out, you’ll be shocked to know it’s been paid out on “questionable” items, with lots of misspending going on:

Since January 2013 the office of Inspector General has opened 225 investigations and initiated 72 audits across various agencies. From those investigations, the various OIGs identified $226.9 million in questioned costs and recommended $76.7 million be reprogrammed for better use of funds.

[…]

Inefficiencies were found in the use of disaster funds by cities large and small. The Department of Housing and Urban Development OIG completed an audit of the New York City Office of Management and Budget’s administration of the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Assistance (CDBG-DR) funds awarded to the city as a result of damages caused by Hurricane Sandy, and found that funds designated for the city went to a subrecipient without adequate objectives or monitoring for its use. As a result, city officials could not assure HUD that the CDBG-DR funds were disbursed for eligible, reasonable, and necessary program expenses in compliance with HUD rules and regulations. Further, the remaining allocation of $40 million would be considered funds put to their intended use only if city officials establish adequate monitoring controls.

A similar review of Minot, North Dakota’s CDBG-DR program determined that the city did not fully comply with federal and local procurement requirements.

The bottom line here: A bunch of your money was appropriated when it didn’t need to be. A lot of your money that was appropriated hasn’t actually been spent, (and should therefore be clawed back and put to better use), and a lot of your money that has been spent has gone to relatively pointless, small-ball stuff. Oh, and there has been a veritable buffet of alphabet soup government agencies purportedly involved in the Sandy response which were ignorant of key information and made bad decisions throughout.

As it turns out, government wasn’t super efficient and wise and benevolent when they asked for and used millions of dollars in the name of “helping.” Whaaaaaat?

By the way, one thing the report highlights that is just typical is how smarter pre-disaster spending to ensure better preparedness would be a much better use of funds. So even if you’re all gung-ho let’s spend limitless federal money all the time, they STILL didn’t manage to do what would have been the smartest thing for the people who live in those areas. Namely, prepare for the worst so they don’t have to deal with the worst.

So big barrels of government money managed by dozens of competing self-interested government bodies failed to do the most good for the most people for the least amount of money? SHUT. UP.

Read the article here.

Read the report here.

Federal government still hasn’t heeded Katrina’s lessons: David Paulison

by David Paulison

The Times-Picayune – August 31, 2015

 

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, the communities that bore the brunt of the storm have been taking time to reflect on the aftermath. Just two weeks after the storm made landfall, President George W. Bush tasked me to lead the recovery as acting administrator of FEMA. I witnessed firsthand the destruction that claimed 1,833 lives and caused $108 billion in property damage. That tragic experience, however, offered some important lessons that we now have a chance to act on for the future.

Prior to leading FEMA, I spent 30 years in the fire service, rising to chief of the Miami-Dade Fire and Rescue Department from 1992 to 2001. Throughout my career, I have experienced disasters across the country that have taken lives and destroyed homes. In almost every instance, there was an opportunity to greatly reduce the loss of life and property beforehand.

The most critical lesson is that preparing for the storm is more important than the response that follows. As the nation's first firefighter and founding father Ben Franklin used to say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Preventative reforms will help save lives, dramatically reduce damage and reduce the cost of recovery to taxpayers.  Unfortunately, our nation has yet to adopt many of the important lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina and more recent major disasters like Hurricane Sandy.

The federal government spends exponentially more on post-disaster relief than on mitigation, and when the government does invest in mitigation it almost only does so after a disaster has occurred. According to a newly released Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on Hurricane Sandy, FEMA spent 14 times more on post-disaster mitigation than it did on pre-disaster measures from 2011-14. The heavy focus on spending after, rather than before a disaster results in an endless cycle of rebuild and repair and a federal system that is prone to waste, duplication and misguided investments. Not enough resources are being allocated for pre-disaster mitigation, especially considering the fact that according to the National Institute of Building Sciences, every $1 spent on prevention saves taxpayers $4 in disaster relief. 

Even more shocking is the fact that after Hurricane Sandy, Congress appropriated almost 75 percent of the $50 billion in off-budget emergency disaster spending to federal agencies other than FEMA, with $36 billion going to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Transportation and other non-FEMA agencies. While FEMA has strict cost versus benefit protocols when it spends taxpayer money, other agencies typically do not. The result is money spent on local projects that have little to do with mitigating the damage of the next storm.  

The GAO concluded, and I agree, that the federal government needs a new national mitigation investment strategy to change the way in which we approach disasters. That is why I am working with the BuildStrong Coalition to advocate for a set of reforms that will refocus our efforts on pre-disaster mitigation. The reforms include a new FEMA-administered resilient construction grant program for states to enact and enforce quality building codes and a set of congressional initiatives designed to incentivize states, builders and individuals to construct more resiliently. One congressional proposal, the Safe Building Code Incentive Act, authored by Miami Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, would reward states that break the cycle of destruction by adopting and enforcing statewide building codes with more resources to maintain and update their mitigation efforts.  For states that don't adopt statewide building codes, the time has arrived to examine how much federal cost share such a state should receive.

The investment costs of these mitigation programs and others should be paid for by repurposing $1 billion of the $30 billion in non-FEMA funds that have yet to be awarded as community development block grants from Hurricane Sandy. By redirecting $1 billion of existing appropriations and reinvesting them in the new mitigation incentive programs, Congress can save lives and tens of billions of taxpayer dollars.

Let's mark the 10th anniversary of the nation's worst disaster by adopting lessons learned and reforming the U.S. natural disaster spending policy. It's time to put good policy ahead of politics and focus more federal funding on responsible preventative measures.

R. David Paulison was administrator of FEMA from shortly after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to 2009.

Read the op-ed here.

Commentary: Stronger Building Codes Make Communities More Resilient

By Julie Rochman, president and CEO, Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety

Claims Journal – July 8, 2015

 

Even though predicted to be a below-average hurricane season, two tropical storms already have made landfall in the U.S. Of all types of severe weather, hurricanes are the most costly natural disaster in recent decades, representing seven of the ten most expensive catastrophes in terms of insurance claims since 1992. Strong, well-enforced building codes can help drive such losses down and help make coastal communities more resilient.

As the property insurance industry’s building science research arm, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) focuses on identifying effective, workable ways to reduce damage from severe weather, like hurricanes, by strengthening building codes and standards, as well as improving building products and installation, construction practices, and repair and replacement techniques.

Building codes today are a patchwork of life safety-focused rules generally established and applied on a state-by-state basis (based on national models) – although too often, this is even a local issue, due to the absence of uniform, minimum statewide standards. To highlight this issue and provide a roadmap for states to improve their code systems, IBHS evaluated residential building codes in the 18 most hurricane-prone states along the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts. The initial IBHS Rating the States report (2012) was updated this April. Each state was assigned a score on a 0-100 point scale, taking into account the areas of code adoption and enforcement, building official training and certification, and licensing requirements for contractors. There is a disturbing variation – and several under-performers – among the states.

The 2012 report has been well-received as a wake-up call, with several states acting to improve their building code systems. The 2015 report finds most states with strong building code systems in place at the time of the original 2012 report remain committed to building safety; they updated their codes to the latest model code editions, or are in the process of doing so and maintained effective enforcement systems. Unfortunately, a number of states took no action to improve their code systems, and a few have weaker systems in place now than in 2012.

Overall, ten states – Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Texas – improved their scores from the 2012 report. Six states – Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey and New York – lost points. Two states, Virginia and Delaware, received the same score. Virginia had the highest score of 95, highlighting their exemplary building code system. This report demonstrates that while much improvement has been made, there is still much work needed to ensure strong, uniform building codes become the standard in these high-risk areas.

Strengthening the building codes in hurricane-prone regions would be a significant step toward reducing the property damage and insurance claims that result from these powerful storms. In fact, a study done by IBHS, the University of Florida and the FEMA Mitigation Assessment Team following Hurricane Charley, which struck Florida in 2004, found that modern building codes reduced the severity of insurance losses by 42 percent and the frequency by 60 percent.

Stronger codes in hurricane regions also benefit other parts of our nation. Better construction standards will reduce property damage, which can potentially save billions of dollars in federal disaster response and recovery costs.

Strong, well-enforced statewide building codes are an essential component of community resilience and must be addressed in disaster mitigation strategies. When buildings are stronger and more resilient, everyone wins. Home and business owners are able to recover faster and local jobs, communities, and tax bases are maintained. This is not a matter of whether or not it is the right thing to do. It is. Because every citizen in every state deserves a well-enforced minimum (because that is what codes are) level of property strength in the buildings in which they live and work.

Read the article here.

Pre-storm mitigation is key to cutting damage and costs

By R. David Paulison
The Hill


 

The new Congress has a golden opportunity to advance a national disaster strategy that will better protect the American people and save taxpayer dollars. 

With the Senate and the House of Representatives working together, this is the time to address the failed status quo of waiting for storms to hit and then passing massive supplemental appropriations bills. 

Director Craig Fugate has done a tremendous job fostering resiliency and a community-oriented approach to emergency management since he took the reins of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in 2009. However, I’m sure even Director Fugate would admit that there is still much work to be done to build a more resilient country.  

According to FEMA, federal disaster declarations have jumped from a yearly average of 28 under President Reagan to 139 under President Obama. The trend is undeniable and costly for taxpayers.

Office of Management and Budget statistics reveal that the average funding provided for disaster relief from 2001-2011 was $11.5 billion a year. In 2012, the average jumped to almost $13 billion. Since 2011, $137 billion has been spent – with over $60 billion spent on Super Storm Sandy. 

The vast majority of damage is related to recent hurricanes that pounded the eastern seaboard. Hurricanes Sandy and Irene inflicted a devastating toll on numerous states, costing lives, destroying homes and ruining small businesses. 

Pre-storm mitigation efforts such as promoting model-building codes can greatly lessen the damage of hurricanes, but there are only eleven states nationwide that have adequate building codes and enforcement mechanisms in place. Many of the states without proper building codes are directly in harm's way when it comes to hurricanes and other natural disasters. Without greater adoption of strong building codes, the amount of federal spending committed to disaster cleanup and relief will continue to spiral upward. 

Preparedness and pre-storm mitigation can save lives and taxpayer dollars. According to a study conducted by FEMA, for every dollar invested in pre-storm mitigation, the nation reaps four dollars of economic benefits. Furthermore, in a landmark study conducted by the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center, researchers found that strong building codes, had they been in widespread use throughout the Gulf Region, would have reduced wind damage from Katrina by 80 percent, saving eight billion dollars. 

I know first-hand from my time as director of FEMA that the intentions of those on the front lines after a disaster are good. But I also believe that we need to step back and take a hard look at our underlying policies. While many independent groups and the General Accountability Office have examined the different causes behind the rise in disaster relief spending, there has never been a comprehensive congressionally mandated study to analyze what the precise costs are, how much federal spending has been wasted on efforts that aren’t vital or appropriate responses to natural disasters, and how best to control disaster relief expenditures going forward. 

The new Congress should pass legislation in short order to commission a Blue Ribbon Panel to explore why disaster declarations are at an all-time high, and what is really behind the dramatic increase in disaster spending. Are the increases in spending related to population increases, changes in spending, poor construction of our homes or mistakes in federal policy? Where have federal dollars dedicated to disaster relief gone? Do sufficient accountability measures exist for FEMA programs, as well as for related programs administered by the Departments of Housing and Transportation, to ensure tax dollars aren’t being wasted? 

Additionally, the panel could explore what changes in policy can be made to enhance building resiliency, strengthen building codes, and reduce disaster costs. The panel could also make recommendations concerning the proper role of federal, state, and local governments in solving this problem. Specific attention should be given to the roles of FEMA, HUD and DOT to minimize duplication of effort and waste. Community Development Block Grants are sometimes prone to abuse. These grants should be closely examined by policymakers before more resources are thrown at the problem. Finally, policymakers should assess the current status of the nation’s housing stock, and consider what federal, state and local incentives should be utilized to encourage the implementation of model building codes. 

There are several lawmakers in Congress who have dedicated themselves to addressing this serious national problem. Many have properly focused on incentivizing states, communities, builders and individuals to construct more resilient homes and buildings. The BuildStrong Coalition has endorsed many of these efforts, including the Safe Building Code Incentive Act, which would provide states with additional disaster relief in exchange for adopting strong building codes. Other bills supported by the coalition would provide tax credits and other incentives for homeowners to retrofit their homes with strong building codes and take other mitigation actions. 

Congress should authorize the above-mentioned Blue Ribbon Commission and use the findings to put in place a comprehensive national disaster strategy that aims to save lives and ultimately reduce taxpayer exposure to natural disasters. 

Paulison was director of FEMA from 2005 to 2009.

Mitigation can save lives and reduce the cost of natural disasters

By Rep. Lou Barletta


In the late summer of 2011, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee wreaked havoc on swaths across the eastern United States, including in my home state of Pennsylvania. Lives were lost, families were broken, and businesses and homes were destroyed or damaged. To say the very least, natural disasters of these kind are extremely disruptive to people and the economy, and impose massive cleanup and rebuilding costs on taxpayers.

Over the last 30 years, it is estimated that similar events have racked up more than $1 trillion in damages and costs. Because of the strength and fury of such storms, there will always be chaos to address in their aftermaths, but what if there were actions we could take now that would reduce these consequences in the future? Fortunately, there are such steps, and we know them by the term “mitigation.”

There are a variety of ways to mitigate future damage, such as elevating homes out of floodways or removing debris from waterways to make drainage easier. Building owners might install storm shutters, roof storm clips, or tie-downs to help structures withstand high winds and prevent devastating losses and costs. We know mitigation efforts like building codes, flood-proofing and earthquake design standards can relieve or, in some cases, eliminate the human and financial impact of disasters on the nation.

As the chairman of the Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I am working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to explore ways Congress can help encourage mitigation practices that will save lives and taxpayer money from disasters.

Here in Congress, several members have offered approaches to facilitate mitigation and encourage the building of stronger and more disaster-resistant communities. These proposals include incentives for state and local governments to improve their building codes, which can reduce building damage and protect people from harm during a catastrophe. Other bills provide tax incentives to individual homebuilders or homeowners if they choose strong building materials and construction methods. 

Another proposal would allow individuals to set aside up to $5,000 annually in tax-free accounts for disaster mitigation expenses.

While all of these measures need to be evaluated closely and evaluated for their impacts on taxpayers, they do share a common characteristic: they are incentives and not mandates.

Click here to read more »

Indianapolis Star: Before the Next Storm Hits, Make Us Safer

The tornadoes that swept through Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Alabama and Georgia marked an early and deadly start to the tornado season in 2012. According to the National Weather Service, there have been 152 tornadoes through March 1, which is 30 percent higher than the average over the past six years.

Mother Nature is sending us a message, and it's time for our lawmakers in Congress to respond with a national strategy that will make our communities safer from natural disasters.

One of the smartest and most effective steps Congress could take would be to provide states with incentives to adopt statewide, model building codes. Strong building codes are widely accepted in the emergency management community as being our best first line of defense against tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, flooding and other weather-induced disasters.

The evidence is compelling. When homes and commercial buildings are constructed to the model codes issued by the International Code Council, it is simply harder for wind and water to knock them down. According to an Institute for Building Sciences study commissioned by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, for every $1 invested in pre-storm mitigation such as promoting the statewide adoption of strong building codes, the nation reaps $4 in benefits. Click here to read more »

Chairman of Hurricane Irene Caucus Urges Colleagues to Pass Safe Building Code Incentive Act

Chairman of Hurricane Irene Caucus Urges Colleagues to Pass Safe Building Code Incentive Act
Click here to download

Roll Call: Diaz-Balart and Sires: Strong Model Building Codes Equal Disaster Defense

By Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Albio Sires
Special to Roll Call

From the tornadoes that ravaged Alabama and Missouri to the severe flooding along the Mississippi River to Hurricane Irene's pounding of the East Coast, we have been reminded throughout the year of the dramatic manner in which major storms can disrupt communities and destroy lives.

The economic losses associated with major weather events in 2011 are already among the most costly in the nation's history. Ten disasters this year have resulted in combined damages of more than $40 billion.

Mother Nature is sending us a wake-up call. We need to answer it and move decisively to promote sound strategies to mitigate the devastation of future disasters and to save taxpayer money. The foundation of our national response should be the statewide adoption of model building codes that will make our homes and office buildings more resistant to nature's forces. It is not enough to simply pass another supplemental appropriations bill and wait for the next storm to hit. Click here to read more »