AIA to Congress: FEMA, Communities Need to Plan Now for Disasters Print
Wednesday, 08 July 2009 11:42

As the 2009 hurricane season moves into full gear, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) called on Congress to ensure that FEMA and communities have plans in place to provide temporary housing and rebuild devastated neighborhoods following major disasters.

Massachusetts-based architect Erica Rioux Gees, AIA, told the House Homeland Security Committee at a hearing today that architects and other design professionals are ready to help assess the damage from major disasters, provide innovative alternatives to FEMA trailers and help communities plan their futures.  “When the focus shifts from emergency response to making homes livable and workplaces functional, licensed building experts—architects, engineers, builders, and others—are often called to assist in evaluating post-disaster conditions and later to help in restoring a community,” Gees testified.  FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate also testified at today’s hearing.
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Gees, a member of the AIA national Board of Directors and the current director of disaster assistance for the AIA’s Massachusetts chapter, offered the Committee several recommendations on disaster recovery and temporary housing:

Temporary housing must be lightweight and reusable.  In instances where there will be a long-term need for temporary housing, proximity to retail and employment centers must be promoted to help avoid the creation of “trailer villages” that are isolated, unsafe and unsustainable
Congress should pass a federal “Good Samaritan” law to give licensed architects and engineers immunity from liability during disaster assessment periods
Collaboration between emergency management agencies and professional associations should be the centerpiece of disaster assistance programs, with these programs organized at the state and local levels
FEMA and state and local emergency management agencies need to have in place partnerships and communication plans before disaster strikes to enable them to trigger the post-disaster response as soon as possible

“Post-disaster assistance needs to be implemented quickly.  Although we cannot predict with any certainly when the next disaster will strike, we have seen time and again that timing is everything,” Gees told the Committee.

Gees’ testimony can be read here.
For more information visit the AIA Disaster Assistance Program.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 July 2009 11:46