The Build Strong Coalition convened the first of three forums on disaster mitigation and resiliency, this one focused on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program.
At the forum, ASCE’s Executive Director Tom Smith, ENV.SP., CAE, F.ASCE spoke on a panel about the need to achieve resilience in public infrastructure. He was joined by Seth Siegel, author of “Troubled Water: What’s Wrong with What We Drink,” and Keith Kropf, PE, Former Director of Engineering at the Florida Keys Electric Cooperative. Tom and the other panelists discussed the role ASCE 7 standards play in strengthening infrastructure’s ability to withstand increasingly severe storms. ASCE 7 is the set of standards that determine flood, tsunami, snow, rain, earthquake, wind, and atmospheric ice and other loads and their combinations for general structure design.
Many communities, including Florida Keys Electric Cooperative, have been able to recover more quickly because they incorporated ASCE 7 into their design standards. When discussing the 2017 hurricane season, Keith Kropf noted that the poles they’d built to ASCE 7 standards withstood damage much more consistently than other infrastructure owned by the utility and neighboring utilities.
The other conversations that morning focused on the BRIC program, a new competitive grant program written into law in the Disaster Reform and Recovery Act. BRIC is designed to reduce our risk to natural disasters by funding pre-mitigation projects that will protect a community and improve a region’s resilience. Before BRIC, the Congressional appropriations process determined how much funding would be available every year for disaster mitigation. As now required in DRRA, there is a 6% set-aside in any disaster relief funding bill for projects that can protect communities can receive funding.
Other panelists discussed how to identify and qualify for FEMA’s BRIC grant program, building an understanding of FEMA’s mitigation priorities and exploring use cases for archiving residential resilience. Several of the speakers stressed the role the private sector has in disaster mitigation. Everyone voiced optimism for the BRIC program’s future, noting it serves a critical role in lessening the costs of future disasters. FEMA’s comment period on the implementation of the program and grant process closed on July 15.
ASCE Is a member of the Build Strong Coalition, a group of firefighters, emergency responders, insurers, engineers, architects, contractors, and more committed to building a more resilient America. The Coalition plans to hold two additional forums on disaster mitigation and resiliency in the coming months, the next in Houston in September.