Build Back Safer & Smarter
Communities damaged by the recent floods in southeastern Louisiana can seize this opportunity to rebuild in better, safer, and smarter ways, according to the Louisiana Floodplain Management Association. While most people want to get back to normal as soon as possible, getting back to “normal” means being exposed to another, possibly larger, flood.
The Louisiana Floodplain Management Association recommends that affected residents and communities not go straight back to “normal.” Local officials should take steps now, while they have the opportunity to build back safer, smarter, and in a manner designed to reduce misery for future generations. Communities can and should rebuild so the danger and damage from the next disaster will be lessened.
LFMA has issued a paper entitled “Build Back Safer & Smarter” with steps local leaders, businesses, and homeowners can follow as they recover from the recent flooding. LFMA’s recipe for smart rebuilding includes 9 steps that have been time-tested in many local recoveries:
1. Know the rules. It’s tempting to waive the rules, but good building codes are essential. One of the flood insurance rules is important, too: Buildings that are “substantially damaged” (more than 50 percent) need special treatment. Mitigation (such as elevation above flood heights) may be required to reduce future losses.
2. Adopt higher redevelopment standards. National standards are usually minimums and often don’t consider future growth or climate change. Go above the minimum today to be safe tomorrow.
3. Commit to mitigate. A community resolution or announcement can lay out the pathway to safe recovery.
4. Screen the damaged areas. In a rapid assessment of the area, assign damaged buildings to categories that will guide recovery decisions: apparently safe, obviously substantially damaged, or perhaps substantially damaged.
5. Identify target areas. Special treatment may be needed for substantially damaged neighbor-hoods with high potential for future losses. A community should hold off on rebuilding there until detailed plans can be developed. In some cases, it may be necessary to help people move to safer building sites.
6. Involve those affected in planning. Nobody knows a neighborhood better than the people who live there, and they should be involved in all facets of the planning. It’s about the future of their homes and businesses.
7. Keep everybody informed. Every survivor needs to know how the plan is progressing and why the community is making decisions.
8. Ensure full repairs and reconstruction. Before people move back in, buildings must be inspected to be sure they are safe, sanitary, and free of mold or bacteria.
9. Mitigate to the extent feasible. Improve buildings with mitigation features such as elevating homes or appliances and, perhaps, building new neighborhoods around planned community open space preservation areas. Funding may be available to help with mitigation measures.
This approach has worked in other parts of the country. For more information, see http://recovery.stormsmart.org. A more detailed paper on the nine steps is available at that site, too.
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