Guest Post by James Kline (first posted on CERM ® RISK INSIGHTS – reposted here with permission)
The U.S. federal government is beginning a shift from a reactive approach to a risk event such as a flood or hurricane, to a proactive approach to risk management. This can be seen clearly in the changes to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requirements as stated in the 2018 Disaster Recovery Reform Act (DRRA) and the Draft National Mitigation Investment Strategy. This piece looks at these changes.
Disaster Recover Reform Act of 2018
On October 5, 2018 President Trump signed the Disaster Recovery Reform Act. The act is part of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2018. The FEMA press release on the act states: “These reforms acknowledge the shared responsibility of disaster response and recover, aim to reduce the complexity of FEMA and build the nation’s capacity for the next catastrophic event.”
The press release emphasizes two major changes.
- Greater investment in mitigation, before a disaster.
The act authorizes the National Public Infrastructure Pre-Disaster Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. This program will be funded through the Disaster Relief Fund as a six percent set aside from disaster expenses.
- The grant program will focus on funding public infrastructure projects which will increase community resilience before a disaster occurs.
- Reducing risk from future disasters after a fire.
The act provides grant funding in areas that received Fire Management Assistance Grants as a result of wildfire. It adds fourteen new mitigation projects associated with wildfire and windstorms.
House Hearing on Disaster Preparedness: DRRA Implementation & EMA Readiness
On May 22, 2019 the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee On Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management held a hearing on FEMA’s readiness to implement DRRA.
During the hearing Representative Peter DeFazio of Oregon stated the overall goal and expectations for DRRA.
“I’ve noted many times how nonsensical it is that the federal government pays to rebuild communities after a disaster back to inadequate standards only to have those facilities destroyed again by a later disaster – with the federal government once again on the hook for the cost of rebuilding.
Under DRRA, this nonsense will finally stop. DRRA requires communities to rebuild to the latest consensus-based, design standards and in a more resilient manner, thereby ensuring stronger, smarter facilities going forward. The cycle of repeatedly rebuilding and repairing disaster-damaged public infrastructure should finally end.
Although FEMA must define “resilient” and resiliency” pursuant to regulations within two years of the data of enactment of this act, FEMA is required to adopt guidance to immediately implement the “resiliency” requirements of this legislation. The need for resilient construction has become even more apparent after the 2017 and 2018 hurricane and wildfire seasons.”
Daniel Kaniewski the FEMA Deputy Administrator for Resilience in his prepared statement before the House Committee indicates the current state of DRRA implementation and FEMA’s emphasis going into 2020.
“Several key provisions of DRRA help directly support FEMA’s goals in our 2018-2022 Strategic Plan. The first goal in FEMA’s Strategic Plan is Building a Culture of Preparedness. A crucial provision of DRRA, Section 1234, allows for the establishment of a national Pre-disaster Hazard Mitigation Program. This program, which FEMA is calling Building Resilient Infrastructure & Communities, or BRIC, will be funded as a six percent set aside from disaster grants under the Stafford Act to allow for a greater federal investment in mitigation before a disaster.
Building to stringent codes and standards is one of the most effective ways to reduce risk across the nation. To help emphasize its importance, DRRA includes provisions to expand eligible funding to restore disaster damage facilities to the latest relevant consensus-based codes and standards and expands eligible funding to state and local partners for building code enforcement.
DRRA also has multiple provisions expanding the scope of eligible activities under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HGP) to cover additional activities that reduce risk for wildfires, windstorms, and earthquakes.”
It is clear FEMA’s emphasis is now on mitigation and proactive risk management. How FEMA hopes to meet Congress’s expectations can be seen in another document entitled “Draft National Mitigation Investment Strategy”.
Draft National Mitigation Investment Strategy
In January 2018, the Mitigation Framework Leadership Group issued “Draft National Mitigation Investment Strategy”. The Mitigation Framework Leadership Group was tasked with developing a strategy to address the lack of mitigation investment coordination. The framework provides an outline of FEMA’s strategy for implementing the mitigation activities specified in DRRA.
The investment strategy has three broad goals. These are:
- Catalyze private and non-profit sector mitigation investments and innovation.
- Improve collaboration between the federal government and state, local, territorial and tribal entities. (SLTT)
- Make data and risk informed decisions that include lifetime costs and risks.
The framework lists six intended outcomes. Under each outcome are specific action steps.
Outcome 1: Coordination of risk mitigation and management improves between and among federal, public, private, and non-profit sector entities.
- Develop common vocabulary for understanding risk and mitigation.
- Develop common metrics for evaluating mitigation and resilience.
- Adopt complementary processes for applying for mitigation, preparedness, and recovery funds.
- Modify federal processes to promote holistic approaches to risk management and mitigation planning.
- Improve coordination between mitigation and other national preparedness mission areas and allow community-based adaptations.
- Incorporate evaluation of mitigation issues into continuous improvement processes.
Outcome 2: Private and non-profit sector entities increase their investments and innovations related to mitigation.
- Support financial products that reduce natural hazard risks and cost.
- Encourage investments in innovative mitigation-related tools and technologies.
- Promote non-traditional models for financing mitigation activities.
- Increase insurance coverage of individuals, businesses, and communities for natural hazard risk.
Outcome 3: SLTTs increasingly empowered to lead risk reduction activities and share responsibility and accountability with the federal government.
- Identify community-based mitigation training needs and deliver more targeted training to communities.
- Create consumer assistance programs that incentivize mitigation.
- Align financial incentives and cost sharing for mitigation projects.
Outcome 4: Public, private and non-profit sector entities develop and share more of the data and tools needed to make risk-informed mitigation investments.
- Enhance the availability and usability of federal data.
- Identify and share leading practices and case studies demonstrating the value of mitigation investments.
Outcome 5: Public, private, and non-profit sector entities improve risk communication, leading to more risk-informed mitigation investments by individuals and communities.
- Develop measurement tools o help communities evaluate their resilience.
- Increase and improve mitigation education and outreach to meet access and functional needs.
- Apply the science of risk communication to enhance individual and community mitigation efforts.
Outcome 6: The built environment – whether grey or nature-based infrastructure, and including lifeline infrastructure, buildings and homes – becomes more resilient and promotes community resilience.
- Encourage the passage and enforcement of up-to-date model building codes.
- Encourage the use of nature-based solutions for mitigation.
- Focus post-disaster on rebuilding better as well as rebuilding quickly.
- Focus post-disaster on rebuilding better as well as rebuilding quickly.
- Encourage local and regional investment that enhance the security and resilience of infrastructure through design standards and coordinated capital improvement.
The goals indicated in the National Mitigation Investment Strategy Framework align with the DRRA and Congressional intent. The goals are to increase SLTT involvement in risk mitigation efforts. The expected outcomes include enhancing infrastructure design standards, ensuring the use of up to date building codes and to encourage an increase in homeowner insurance coverage. It also includes the development of a common risk vocabulary, common metrics, a holistic approach to risk management and alignment of financial incentives and cost sharing. This last item implies that SLTTs will ultimately be required to pick up more of the mitigation costs.
The DRRA is a clear indication that the way natural disaster mitigation is going to change. Congress, as noted by Representative DeFazio’s statement, recognizes the need for change and wants it to happen. FEMA, as noted by Deputy Administrator for Resilience Kaniewski’s statement and the intended outcomes of the Draft National Mitigation Investment Strategy, is intent in implementing the asked for changes. The one change that FEMA has not yet implemented is the definition of resilience. This definition will be critical to the actual implementation of building back better and thereby ensuring that any repair can withstand subsequent adverse weather events.
James J. Kline is a Senior Member of ASQ, a Six Sigma Green Belt, a Manager of Quality/Organizational Excellence and a Certified Enterprise Risk Manager. He has work for federal, state and local government. He has over ten year’s supervisory and managerial experience in both the public and private sector. He has consulted on economic, quality and workforce development issues for state and local governments. He has authored numerous articles on quality in government and risk analysis. He is the principle of JK Consulting. firstname.lastname@example.org