Does your building need to be ‘drownproof’ to get US safety certifications?

In the past year, natural disasters, especially flooding and severe storms, have become a familiar part of the US landscape. Many have come after earlier years when disasters like extreme heat and drought were…

Does your building need to be 'drownproof' to get US safety certifications?

In the past year, natural disasters, especially flooding and severe storms, have become a familiar part of the US landscape. Many have come after earlier years when disasters like extreme heat and drought were already feeling like regular occurrence.

While a flood is now seen as more of a potential threat than some years, they are still not exactly commonplace, despite society’s liberal use of technology to produce and transmit information.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said, by 2065, global flood levels could reach nearly five times their previous peak. As the US government works to build disaster-proof infrastructure, Tom Brennan, senior technology systems engineer for the American Red Cross National Capital Region, and Aaron Day, risk management manager for RSA Security, offer tips to build disaster-proof buildings

From a planning perspective, reducing flooding risk is fundamentally important for resiliency, especially in a built-up city like Washington. Decades of federal investment in flood-proofing new build standards have left us safer from natural disasters like hurricanes and floods. While the impacts of climate change are still being addressed by many jurisdictions, as mitigation measures, they can reduce a building’s and person’s risk of injury and destruction. That’s good news, but not something we can take for granted.

Here are some things to consider when deciding on a residence’s resiliency level.

Build to enforce the most stringent federal safety regulations

Getting the building code right starts with the owner’s willingness to comply with the code, and their ability to do so on their own terms. The biggest insurance for building compliance is not flooding, but getting that building to meet a building code.

For pre-disaster construction, there are many options for different approaches to building flood-proof structures. Building to the requirements of the Washington City Code, or DC Plan, is an option that helps to reduce the chances of flooding and address the broader risks of a natural disaster. Each state has different building codes and with Washington’s dense and diverse land use and transportation patterns, it’s clear that this approach to building is necessary to keep people safe in every manner.

Every project, regardless of its design, must comply with all local and federal regulations. Most builders, and consequently customers, understand and accept the difference between regulatory agencies’ requirements and the engineering standards for a particular building. Then it’s a question of whether the project developers can take care of the details that make a difference in whether the project meets the minimum code requirements.

During mitigation and disaster response, it is essential to document that the building is in compliance with all codes.

In addition to the DC Plan, the FEMA Preparedness Guide encourages public buildings to follow a 15-step disaster preparedness checklist. Building to FEMA’s standards means that the unit has criteria for early evacuation, is prepared to answer fire alarms, has a copy of a flood risk map, and can be easily shut off during an emergency.

An example of FEMA’s FEMA Preparedness Guide, which provides a checklist for disaster preparedness. Illustration: National Red Cross

There are numerous audits of buildings in this country, and they do monitor compliance with codes and regulations. Even if a developer chooses to ignore federal regulations, they could be audited by the Building Safety Oversight Board (BSOB) , which issues public citations for violations. In some cases, under FEMA’s hazard mitigation program, owners could also be assessed for unjustified certifications, such as “proper floor height”.

Create an audit plan

During the engineering evaluation of the project, if one does not address the more critical areas of coverage, the company may put out a bond that will cover the necessary remediation costs. Building to FEMA’s 6-foot (1.8m) elevation standard, which calculates the risk of any building below 6-feet (1.8m) below ground, is the benchmark that businesses must adhere to before being granted a certificate of occupancy.

It’s never too late to think about resilient designs, but being aware of your risks early on will also help you take proactive action to mitigate risks.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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This article originally published at The Conversation here

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