AIA calls for federal disaster plan
The Washington-based American Institute of Architects (AIA) is asking Congress to ensure that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and communities have plans in place to provide temporary housing and rebuild neighborhoods following disasters. AIA’s call for action comes as the 2009 hurricane season moves into full swing.
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, Erica Rioux Gees, a member of the AIA national Board of Directors and director of disaster assistance for AIA’s Massachusetts chapter, told the House Homeland Security Committee at a July 8 hearing. “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 said.
Gees said FEMA and state and local emergency management agencies need to have partnerships and communication plans in place before disaster strikes to enable them to trigger the post-disaster response as soon as possible. Congress should pass a federal “Good Samaritan” law to give licensed architects and engineers immunity from liability during disaster assessment periods, she said.
Collaboration between emergency management agencies and professional associations should be the centerpiece of disaster assistance programs, with the programs organized at the state and local levels. “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.