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By Arthur Postal

WASHINGTON—Legislation has been introduced in both the House and Senate aimed at providing additional incentives for states to adopt and enforce uniform building codes.

The bill was introduced as one component of a comprehensive push by the insurance industry.

As part of the effort, the industry has created the BuildStrong Coalition in order to create momentum for Congress to pass such legislation, which has repeatedly been introduced in Congress.

Members include national business and consumer organizations, insurance companies, firefighters, emergency managers, and building professionals dedicated to promoting stronger building codes. Its members include the Congressional Fire Services Institute and National Fire Protection Association.

The effort included a hearing before a Senate subcommittee May 8 on the importance of uniform building standards and a forum held May 9 in conjunction with the 25th Annual National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner.

The legislation is the Safe Building Code Incentive Act. The bills, S 905 in the Senate and HR 1878, are chiefly sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla, respectively. Click here to read more »


By Mark Hofmann

 

WASHINGTON — Legislation that would encourage states to adopt and enforce building codes was introduced in the House of Representatives and Senate on Wednesday.

The Safe Building Code Incentive Act of 2013 — H.R. 1878 — would allow states that adopt and enforce model building codes that meet minimum life-safety standards to receive an additional 4% on post-disaster funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Qualifying codes would have to be consistent with the most recent version of a nationally recognized model building code, have been adopted by the state within six years of the most recent version of the model code, and use the model code as a minimum standard.

“Nature has the stick, let’s give the carrot,” said the measure’s chief House sponsor, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., during a conference in Washington on Thursday.

Speaking at the inaugural building codes opinion leader forum sponsored by the BuildStrong Coalition and the Congressional Fire Services Institute, Rep. Diaz-Balert said stronger building codes save lives and money.

Previous versions of the measure failed to pass both chambers of Congress, but Rep. Diaz-Balart said he thinks “momentum is on our side” because citizens recognize the costs of the status quo.

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., introduced a companion bill — S. 905 — in the Senate. Click here to read more »


By Kevin Bogardus

“Do something now, before the storms hit.” 

That’s the message that Jimi Grande and members of the BuildStrong Coalition are bringing to Capitol Hill this week as they lobby for legislation that would guarantee extra disaster aid to states that strengthen their building codes.

 The coalition plans to blanket Washington with op-eds and print ads this week in favor of the legislation. Lobbyists with the group hope the memory of Hurricane Sandy — which inflicted costly damage on the East Coast — will galvanize lawmakers to action before the summer storm season begins.

Jimi Grande, the coalition’s chairman, said Sandy should have been a “wake-up call for Washington.” 

“I think it has and will continue to be, as will the next natural disaster that hits us,” said Grande, who is also senior vice president of federal and political affairs for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies.

The coalition is pushing the Safe Building Code Incentive Act, which Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) plans to introduce this week in the House and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) plans to bring forward this week in the Senate.

 The bill would provide an additional 4 percent in disaster grant funding to states that adopt and enforce nationally recognized building codes. Diaz-Balart, who hails from a state often affected by hurricanes, said the legislation would encourage construction that can better withstand natural disasters.

“This to incentivize states to create these building codes, which have the effect of saving money and saving lives. It’s not rocket science, but that’s what we are trying to do,” Diaz-Balart said. “It’s not a mandate to the state. It’s an incentive for the states to do so.” Click here to read more »


By Beaman Floyd

From fire to flood, hail to tornados, and everything in between — Texas proved once again last year that it really does have the most diverse weather risk in the country. That exposure, to nine different types of natural disasters, is the biggest cost driver when it comes to buying homeowners insurance in the Texas marketplace.

While Texans cannot control the weather, implementing and enforcing sound building codes for new construction or when rebuilding can help reduce the resulting damage caused by that weather — and drive down the cost of insurance claims.

Building codes are designed to reduce deaths and property damage from hurricanes and other weather hazards by setting design, construction and maintenance standards for structures.

Yet Texas trails most coastal states when it comes to instituting and enforcing building codes, according to a residential building code analysis released last year by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS). Texas scored a dismal 18 points (out of 100) in the survey, lower than all but two of the 18 states along the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Coast. Click here to read more »


The BuildStrong Coalition commended U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) for introducing the Senate version of The Safe Building Code Incentive Act today. The Menendez bill applies retroactively to prior to Superstorm Sandy, ensuring that New Jersey and New York, two states that have long enforced strong building codes would be immediately eligible for additional disaster relief aid.

The Menendez bill was co-sponsored by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).

Click here to read the BuildStrong Coalition's press release on the Menendez bill.


By Joseph Myers

In declaring May "National Building Safety Month," President Obama has provided some much-needed momentum to bipartisan legislation pending in Congress that would incentivize states to adopt and enforce model building codes as a disaster-mitigation strategy.

The Safe Building Code Incentive Act, which has garnered the support of several members of Congress from Florida, including U.S. Reps. Steve Southerland, Mario Diaz-Balart, Allen West, Jeff Miller, Daniel Webster, David Rivera, Thomas Rooney and Dennis Ross, would provide states that adopt and enforce model building codes adhering to the standards issued by the International Code Council with an additional 4 percent of post-disaster relief grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Florida is one of 16 states that would immediately qualify for additional disaster-relief assistance upon enactment of the Safe Building Code Incentive Act. But the real value of the legislation would be the powerful motivation it would provide to other states to follow the Sunshine State's lead and put strong building codes into law.

As someone who has spent his career in the emergency management field, I can attest that model building codes provide our best first line of defense against hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters. When homes and office buildings are constructed by modern building science, it is simply harder for Mother Nature to knock them down. In the wake of Hurricane Andrew, Florida made a commitment to achieve the gold standard for maximizing the benefits of strong building codes. If more states would learn from our lessons, the nation would be more resilient.

The widespread adoption of strong building codes would better protect property, save lives and ultimately reduce taxpayer exposure to natural disasters. The problem is far too few states have model building codes on their books or lack the enforcement mechanisms to give their codes real teeth.

I commend the above-mentioned lawmakers from the Florida delegation for their leadership in promoting the Safe Building Code Incentive Act. This legislation provides a proactive strategy for better preparing the nation when major storms strike our communities. Click here to read more »


By Joseph Myers

Regarding David T. Beito and Daniel J. Smith's "Tornado Recovery: How Joplin Is Beating Tuscaloosa" (Cross Country, April 14): While Joplin, Mo., appears to be outpacing Tuscaloosa, Ala., in rebuilding from the devastating tornadoes that ripped through both communities last year, waving building codes, which has occurred in Joplin, is a risky proposition that could be costly to homeowners and business owners.

Building codes are widely embraced in the emergency management community as offering a first line of defense against natural disasters. According to FEMA, for every dollar invested in pre-storm mitigation activities such as the promotion of strong building codes, the nation reaps $4 in economic benefits.

The problem is far too few states have adopted statewide, model building codes or lack the enforcement mechanisms to give their codes real teeth. There is bipartisan legislation pending in Congress that would provide states with financial incentives to adopt and enforce strong building codes. Given the high level of tornado activity this year and the threat of more dangerous weather once hurricane season commences in June, our lawmakers in Congress should place the Safe Building Code Incentive Act on a fast track.

States and communities will be much safer and better prepared to respond to natural disasters once model building codes are the national norm. The example of waving building codes in Joplin to expedite development is a classic case of being penny wise and pound foolish.

Joseph Myers is a two-time past president of the National Emergency Managers Association


By Joseph Myers

Tornado season has started earlier than usual and is wrecking havoc in communities across the United States. In Dexter, more than 100 homes were severely damaged and 13 destroyed outright from the twister that recently touched down in Michigan.

The severity of this year’s tornadoes could mean that we are in for an even more devastating tornado season than last year when 550 people lost their lives and damages topped out at $28.7 billion.

Mother Nature is clearly sending us a message and we need 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 embraced in the emergency management community as being our best first line of defense against tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, flooding and other weather-induced disasters. Click here to read more »


By Joseph Myers:

There is bipartisan legislation pending in Congress that would provide a powerful incentive for states like Mississippi to adopt and enforce statewide building codes as a disaster-mitigation strategy. The aptly-named Safe Building Code Incentive Act would provide qualifying states with an additional four percent of post-disaster grants in exchange for passing strong, statewide building codes that adhere to the standards put forward by the International Code Council.

As a story (“Lack of building code inflates state insurance rates”) in the Sun Herald on Friday pointed out, Mississippi property owners are paying higher insurance rates because the state doesn’t require strong building codes. I believe the availability of additional disaster relief from FEMA would ignite an important debate in Jackson about the role strong building codes can play in minimizing the cost of hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes and other major disasters. Click here to read more »


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 »