Once Again – Failure to Learn from Experience

From Governing, this article about a recent IBHS study: As Storms Worsen, Many Coastal States Aren’t Prepared. Lax building codes and poor enforcement are a big problem in some places. An excerpt:

Eight out of the 18 hurricane-prone coastal states along the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Coast are highly vulnerable, according to a new report from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS). The report, Rating the States: 2018, is the institute’s third in six years. It evaluates the states on 47 factors that include whether residential building codes are mandated statewide, whether states and localities enforce those codes, and whether licensing and education are required of building officials, contractors and subcontractors.

Overall, the institute found “a concerning lack of progress” in the adoption and enforcement of updated residential building code systems across most of the states examined. “There’s not been much movement from [the first report] in 2012 to today,” says Julie Rochman, who stepped down as CEO and president of IBHS in April. “There’s some inertia.”

“Lessons From Hurricane Harvey: Houston’s Struggle Is America’s Tale”

The Diva has been contemplating the concept of resilience, as described in the document Disaster Resilience; A National Imperative, published by the National Academy of Sciences in 2012. Reviewing it against the present setting of disaster recovery efforts in Houston, TX, the State of FL, and all of Puerto Rico has raised many questions.

Reading this powerful article in the N.Y. Times suggests to me that it is time to review current thinking about resilience and about emergency management in general. See: Lessons From Hurricane Harvey: Houston’s Struggle Is America’s TaleSome key excerpts:

For years, the local authorities turned a blind eye to runaway development. Thousands of homes have been built next to, and even inside, the boundaries of the two big reservoirs devised by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1940s after devastating floods. Back then, Houston was 20 miles downstream, its population 400,000. Today, these reservoirs are smack in the middle of an urban agglomeration of six million.

Unfortunately, nature always gets the last word. Houston’s growth contributed to the misery Harvey unleashed. The very forces that pushed the city forward are threatening its way of life.

Sprawl is only part of the story. Houston is also built on an upbeat, pro-business strategy of low taxes and little government. Many Texans regard this as the key to prosperity, an antidote to Washington. It encapsulates a potent vision of an unfettered America.

After every natural calamity, American politicians make big promises. They say: We will rebuild. We will not be defeated. Never again will we be caught unprepared.
But they rarely tackle the toughest obstacles. The hard truth, scientists say, is that climate change will increasingly require moving — not just rebuilding — entire neighborhoods, reshaping cities, even abandoning coastlines.

We need a whole new structure of governance,” he insisted. “We’ve built in watersheds, paved roads and highways because we don’t have mass transit.
“Inevitably, it all catches up with us,” the judge said. “Mother Nature has a long memory.”

See also this posting dated Sept. 7th: What H. Harvey Says about Risk, Climate, and Resilience.

FL Building Codes

FL May Soon Face a Big Test of Its New Building Codes…..

How Will Florida’s New Building Codes Weather Hurricane Season? This year Florida lawmakers changed the way the state building codes are updated. There are concerns the new law could weaken the integrity of Florida homes, in order to cut construction costs. In the wake of Harvey, those concerns are taking on a new significance.

A Big Step Backward in FL?

From USAtoday: As Hurricane Andrew memories fade, Florida weakens building codesFormer FEMA Administrator, a FL resident, admonishes the state on that bad move.

But in an article in the Tampa Bay newspaper, there is pushback on Fugate’s argument. I guess the full story has not yet emerged.

Update: See the blunt comments on this issue from Eric Holdeman, a fellow blogger and former local emergency manager.

Building Standards and Recovery

The Diva is not familiar with the source of this article, but she does know one of the authors. This would seem to be credible information. She welcomes comments from those more familiar with building codes.

FEMA Requires Compliance with National Standard Building Codes for Restoration of Facilities Funded Through Public Assistance Grant Program. An excerpt:

Several recent disasters will test the practical implications of a policy update released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) late last year. In issuing Recovery Policy FP-104-009-4, FEMA envisions that integration of nationally recognized consensus-based building codes and standards into requirements governing its Public Assistance Program activities will protect lives and property by increasing the safety and risk reduction capabilities of buildings restored with these funds and also support the efficient use of federal dollars. All will now watch to see how the new policy will impact recovery operations and if FEMA’s goals will be realized.