Disaster Recovery Fema Smart Home America

Original articles from Stateline News written by Sarah Breitenbach

Smart Home America Contributors: Ashlie Anderson, Summer Research Intern & Graham Green, Outreach and Operations Manager

This past week, Stateline News released an excellent three-part series explaining the changing landscape of disaster planning and recovery in America. All three articles look at new solutions to old problems and how communities can help themselves instead of relying on government funding to do the majority of the heavy lifting after a storm has passed. Funding the planning for, mitigating against and recovering from disasters are often treated as three separate subjects, to be approached using different strategies. We propose that they are, and should be, connected.

The first article describes methods currently being proposed to reduce federal spending on disaster recovery. The most talked about is cutting federal disaster relief budgets and recommending states pay for a significant portion of disaster recovery costs through “disaster deductibles.” These new deductibles would require states to pay a portion of the expenses of recovery before federal aid kicks in.

The uncertainty of a federal disaster deductible doesn't bode well for unprepared state and local municipalities. In the event of a natural catastrophe, they may have to divert funds set aside for other projects to meet a disaster deductible. Using money earmarked for community development or infrastructure would be hard, but necessary. Thankfully, they do have options to be proactive in protecting their residents and lowering the costs of recovery, and the disaster deductibles.

Using Special Nails to Save Roofs — and Dollars, the second article in the series focuses on the methods to reduce damage and mitigate homes and communities before a disaster. Taking these measures is being proven to reduce disaster recovery spending, the cost of insurance, and recovery time. For homeowners, building or updating their homes to the FORTIFIED standard greatly improves its strength and ability to resist storm damage. FORTIFIED is becoming the new standard in construction thanks to policy changes and improved building codes. Alabama leads the nation in FORTIFIED construction with nearly 4,000 of these homes built or retrofitted in the State and it recently launched a first of its kind mitigation grant program, Strengthen Alabama Homes, to help homeowners pay to re-roof to the FORTIFIED standard.

Finally, Nonprofits Poised for Bigger Role in Disaster Recovery, addresses how nonprofits currently serve as a bridge between a disaster and the arrival of federal money for recovery. However, these nonprofits may be affected by disaster deductibles as well.  If states or cities cannot meet the deductibles needed for federal recovery dollars to flow into an affected area, that gap will be too large for nonprofits to fill. Sadly, some states claim without federal assistance; they won’t be able to afford to rebuild, even with the help of non-profits.

Echoed throughout all three articles is a string of connected strategies and approaches that can advance our communities towards a more resilient future: We must prepare for situations, even when we think they are unlikely. Protecting our communities by being proactive will reduce damage over time. We can do this by building stronger homes, mitigating existing homes, adopting improved building codes, having the right insurance to recover when we are affected, and by encouraging our leaders to save for disasters or disaster deductibles.

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