FEMA Webinar: Building Codes and Enforcement and Capacity and Capability

FEMA’s fourth webinar entitled ‘Building Codes and Enforcement and Capacity and Capability’ began with a high level overview of the Disaster Recovery Reform Act, then proceeded to highlight two areas of importance for the development of the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program. 

FEMA’s 30 years of Hazard Mitigation Assistance can be categorized by Hazard mitigation grant program, pre-disaster mitigation, flood mitigation assistance. In FY 2018, more than 1.3B in pre- and post-disaster Hazard Mitigation Assistance Grants was delivered to states, tribes, and territories, resulting in mitigation actions that will hopefully reduce risk. The Flood Mitigation Assistance Grant program constituted 7 % ($88.2M), the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program constituted 4% ($57.7M), the 406 Mitigation Funding constituted 30% ($400M), and the Hazard Mitigation Grant program constituted 59% ($784M).

The Disaster Recovery Reform Act (DRRA) establishes more than 50 new authorities and requirements across FEMA. Designed to address the rising costs of disasters and reform Federal disaster programs, the Mitigation Directorate is responsible for implementing 26% of the new provisions, over half of which directly impact Hazard Mitigation Assistance programs. DRRA Section 1234: Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) leverages 6% set-aside funding mechanism, encourages community-wide mitigation of critical lifelines, prioritizes resilient infrastructure projects, builds capacity and capability, and supports building code efforts.

The BRIC Program Design Process reads as follows: Stakeholder Engagement to Research to Policy and Guidance Development to Public Comment through Federal Register to Notice of Funding Opportunity Development to Grant Application Period Opening. The Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) Amended Stafford Act Sec. 203 includes the following: Pre-Disaster Hazard Mitigation, which establishes and carries out code enforcement activities and implements the latest published editions of codes/standards and takes into account the extent to which the SLTT has facilitated the adoption and enforcement of the latest published editions of codes/standards.

Other DRRA building code-related sections: Sec. 1206: Eligibility for Code Implementation and Enforcement, Sec. 1235(b): Public Assistance Codes and Standards, Sec. 1241(a): Post-Disaster Building Safety Assessment.

Building codes are the cornerstone of a resilient community, but less than 35 percent of communities have adopted the latest, most up-to-date hazard resistant codes. The BRIC Goals include building states’ capacity and capability to efficiently and effectively manage disasters and disaster grants, establishing partnerships, community vulnerabilities, and mitigation prioritizes, and stabilizing consistent stream of funding. 

BRIC has positive implications for areas like Texas and Louisiana, where capacity may be limited and capability stunted compared to other states. BRIC enables partnerships to be built and vulnerabilities to be lessened, which will benefit states repeatedly plagued by natural disasters, like California.

Blair Hassett