A federal task force put forward a post-Hurricane Sandy resiliency plan, which includes 69 policy initiatives protecting energy and fuel distribution, cell service and infrastructure in a future where severe coastal storms are the norm.
The Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force is chaired by Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and involves the heads of more than 20 U.S. executive departments and agencies such as Treasury, Energy, Commerce, Labor, and Health and Human Services.
“This work will help protect communities in the region when future disasters take place,” said Housing and Urban Development secretary Shaun Donovan in the program’s outline, which was published Monday. “We know that every dollar we spend today on hazard mitigation saves us at least $4 in avoided costs if a disaster strikes again. By building more resilient regions, we can save billions in taxpayer dollars.”
The outline states Hurricane Sandy caused the New York and New Jersey regions between $20 billion and $50 billion in economic damage from power outages, fuel shortages, and transportation shutdown alone.
The task force’s policy initiatives will protect fuel, food, communications, and emergency service distribution by mapping their regional interdependencies, studying their susceptibility to current and future effects of climate change, retrofitting infrastructure as needed and educating and incentivizing business and homeowners to build away from flood zones.
The plan emphasizes streamlining review processes to reduce the time needed for a risk-mitigating action to pass the scrutiny of multiple agencies, and to get checks to homeowners faster after an emergency.
It also focuses on collaboration between the federal government, which acts as the plans’ backbone, and states’ and cities’ expertise to develop specific solutions for their regions.
Says Donovan, “Local governments and community leaders are the frontlines of disaster recovery, and it is the job of the Federal Government to have their back by supporting their efforts, providing guidance when necessary, and delivering resources to help them fulfill their needs. To be successful, we need everyone involved.”
Along with providing billions of dollars towards building regional risk management programs, the task force will host an international design competition to source resilient rebuilding ideas to Sandy-impacted areas and has already begun to promote the distribution of a Sea Level Rise planning tool based on climate change data.
The task force report also stated that in 2013, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) estimated that 15 to 25 percent of properties in Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA) in the Northeast were insured for flood losses when Sandy hit.
To this end, the plan will tackle insurance challenges such as streamlining payouts to homeowners and other policy-holders in the wake of a disaster, and addressing affordability challenges posed by Congressionally-mandated reforms to the NFIP.