As Weather Events Become More Frequent and Severe, Efforts to Build Resiliency Take on Added Importance
As natural disasters increase in frequency and intensity, the National Governors Association (NGA) is recommending statepolicies and actions to improve the resilience of the nation’s housing stock, including measures to build resilience into planning processes before a disaster strikes.
NGA issued a white paper outlining state actions to enhance preparedness for disaster, informed by perspectives from a roundtable on enhancing housing resilience that NGA hosted in January 2019 in conjunction with the Institute for Building Technology and Safety (IBTS).
Despite enhanced state preparedness, including efforts assisted by NGA, damages from natural disasters have been increasing substantially in recent years. In 2017, there were 16 disasters with damages exceeding $1 billion each in the United States. Total cumulative disaster damage exceeded $305 billion, the highest amount ever recorded in the United States. Federal records show that four of the five years with the highest cost of damages from natural disasters have occurred since 2010, with the other year being 2005.
Citing specific examples from Connecticut and North Carolina, the NGA white paper spelled out measures states can take during periods of calm, in the immediate aftermath of a disaster and once the state has recovered. The recommendations include:
• During fair weather, state and local agencies should convene interagency response and recovery planning meetings to build relationships between among emergency managers, grant administrators, state insurance commissioners, state and local recovery planners, community and urban planners, as well as nonprofit organizations that respond to disasters.
• Building codes should be examined, updated and enforced so as to ensure the most modern and protective enhancements are applied to the state’s housing stock. States should evaluate whether vulnerable populations face higher risks during disaster response and recovery.
• Due to the temporary nature of the recovery programs, states should consider supplementing with non-profit organizations and local governments with experience administering federal mitigation projects and grant programs.
• Working groups established before a disaster and during a recovery process should continue after the conclusion of the recovery program so as to exercise muscle memory when next disaster hits.