NU Online News Service, July 26, 3:09 p.m. EDT
Representatives of an industry association voiced strong support for legislation that would provide additional incentives to states that adopt uniform and enforceable building codes.
The bill is H.R. 2069, the Safe Building Code Incentive Act.
“The foundation of our national response [to disasters] should be the adoption of model building codes that will make our homes and businesses more resistant to nature’s forces,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., the bill’s primary supporter.
He testified at a Tuesday congressional hearing that strong building codes are widely accepted in the emergency management community “as being our best line of defense against tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, flooding, and other weather induced disasters.
“It is not enough to simply pass another supplemental appropriations bill and wait for the next storm to hit,” Diaz-Balart said.
Under the bill, qualifying states would receive an additional 4 percent in post-disaster relief grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to address long-term hazard mitigation, such as improving drainage structures, restraining cables on bridges, elevating structures to reduce flood damage, and installing window shutters for hospitals and other critical facilities.
Rod Matthews, property and casualty operations vice president for State Farm Insurance Companies, Bloomington, Ill., testified that Congress can help to save lives and reduce the need for federal disaster aid for the next natural catastrophe by incentivizing the adoption of enforcement of strong building codes.
Matthews testified on behalf of the BuildStrong Coalition, established by State Farm’s trade group, the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies.
NAMIC established BuildStrong to bring together advocates for stronger, safer buildings.
In his testimony, Matthews said, “The ongoing need for emergency funding has often created political battles divided by both party and geographic lines. We know that natural disasters are inevitable, and while planning for the costs associated with these disasters is not a perfect science, there is a need for the federal government to budget more wisely for them on the front end.
“Merely hoping the weather cooperates and relying on luck is not the way to establish FEMA’s disaster relief budget.”
David Miller, who, as an associate administrator of FEMA, oversees the National Flood Insurance Program, also testified in support of the legislation.
He said, “Mitigation is an essential component of national preparedness and emergency and emergency management, and strengthens significantly our chances of savings lives and avoiding costs during disasters.
“Adoption of effective building codes in local ordinances can further mitigation efforts and preserve lives and property that would otherwise be lost.”
Jimi Grande, NAMIC senior vice president of federal and political affairs, is a key advocate for the legislation.
He said passage of the bill would allow FEMA to “spend smarter” by providing an extra 4 percent in aid to states that ensure that minimum safety standards are met through enforcement of statewide building codes.