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