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House Debates Federal Safe Building Code Incentive Act

Artist impression. Rob Thomas and Phil Cullen ...


From APA Policy News for Planners:

Bill Promotes Building Codes as Disaster Management Tool

By Jason Jordan
APA Director of Policy and Government Affairs

Modernizing building codes to better withstand natural disasters would save lives, property, and billions in taxpayer dollars, but unfortunately, many communities lack adequate building codes.

A bill debated by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee this week aims to tackle this problem by giving states incentives to update their building codes.

The Safe Building Code Incentive Act (HR 2069) would provide states with an additional 4 percent in post-disaster funding by approving and actively enforcing an approved state building code, which is subject to presidential approval.  It defines an approved state building code as one that is consistent with the most recent version (within six years) of a nationally recognized model building code and uses the nationally recognized code as a minimum standard.

The bill is designed to provide incentives to communities to adopt modern building codes, as opposed to penalizing those that don’t.

In the hearing, bill sponsor Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) promoted model building codes as “widely accepted in emergency management as the best defense” for communities. He highlighted the structure of the bill, pointing out that it does not mandate states to adopt building codes.

Though better building codes would save billions in the long-term, Diaz-Balart acknowledged that the bill does rely on appropriations from Congress, which could hinder its passage in this current budget climate.

The bill appeared to have little opposition. All witnesses testified that building codes are integral to saving lives, property and tax dollars in natural disasters, and the members of Congress present did not voice any opposition.

Rod Matthews, a vice president at State Farm Insurance Companies, said that for every dollar spent on improving buildings, $4 in taxpayer funding is saved. He cited a 2012 study that found that the Safe Building Code Incentive Act would have saved taxpayers $11 billion in hurricane disaster relief alone from 1988 to the present had it been enacted.

Witness Chad Berginnis emphasized the role of planning in disaster mitigation. To respond to disasters effectively, he testified, communities need to conduct mitigation planning every three to five years. Planning during non-disaster times allows communities to identify all options available during what he described as the “what’s next moment” communities face after disaster strikes.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) responded that this was particularly good advice for communities, and admitted that she “hadn’t thought about mitigation planning.”


Based on our local hazard mitigation planning meetings, there would be significant grassroots opposition to any mandate for building codes, just as there is widespread misunderstanding and opposition to, say, floodplain zoning.  The post above, from the American Planning Association, doesn’t include comments from builders or real estate interests.   In fact, I would suspect this is “tar-and-feather” territory independent of local Tea Party or anti-Agenda 21 sentiment.

Tread lightly.



USDA-RD Funding Narrowband Radio

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

PR from Minnesota’s USDA-RD team:

USDA Rural Development Funding for Narrowbanding Radio Equipment

USDA Rural Development has loan and grant funds available to assist public safety licensees in the 150-174 MHz (VHF) and 421-512 MHz (UHF) to migrate their 25 MHz (wideband) systems to 15 MHz (narrowband). The deadline is Jan. 31, 2013, so if your community  needs financial assistance with the migration contact your local Rural Development specialist.

Eligility Requirements

—  Public entities, nonprofits and Indian tribes in rural communities under 20,000 people are eligible to apply.

—  To qualify for grants, a community’s median household income must not exceed $42,993 per the 2000 census.

—  Grant assistance is provided on a graduated scale, from 15 to 75 percent based on median household income and population of service area.

—  Interest rates on loans depend on median household income.

—  The current interest rate is 3.375 percent. Rates change quarterly.

—  Loan repayment terms are the life of the equipment.

More Information

To learn about Rural Development’s community facilities program, check out the program brochure.

You can also contact a local Rural Development office in your area to visit with a specialist for additional information.


Iowa to Try a Flood Mitigation Panel

Alerted to this on The Midwest Planning BLUZ, a land use blog from Iowa State Extension.  A new bill in Iowa:

…establishes a flood mitigation program and a flood mitigation board to review proposed flood mitigation projects and authorize funding for approved projects. The bill also establishes two funding sources, a Flood Mitigation Fund and a Sales Tax Increment Fund, to provide funding for flood mitigation projects. The Flood Mitigation Fund will consist of appropriations and other moneys. The Sales Tax increment Fund will receive deposits of increased sales tax revenues from impacted areas, as calculated by the Department of Revenue. The Flood Mitigation Board will determine the funding source and amounts allocated to applicants for approved projects.

According to media reports, the proposal has not been without controversy.  Iowans are concerned about accountability, which the review panel is intended to address:

The measure would create a Flood Mitigation Program administered by a state board. The board could allow communities to retain growth in sales tax revenues over a period of time or provide state aid from a state flood fund for communities without sales tax growth. The program requires a 50 percent local match.

As much as $30 million a year could be diverted from general fund sales tax revenues with as much as $15 million available for any one project.

Hopefully, the investment today will help people mitigate floods tomorrow.


Meth: An Unnatural Hazard

English: Anti-meth sign ("Stop Meth"...

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The life cycle of our local (county) All Hazard Mitigation Plans has tracked the growth, and recently contraction, of methamphetamine use in rural America.  We classified meth as a hazardous substance, a technological hazard, due to the unique impacts of manufacturing—the devastating effects on property as well as people, and the large costs to clean up meth houses.

The ‘meth house’ hazard has moderated after recent legislation restricting purchase of certain ingredients, however the illegal drug continues to pop back up in unexpected places.  The National Domestic Preparedness Coalition highlighted this article today on their feed:

‘Shake-and-bake’ meth fills hospitals with burn patients

By Jim Salter
Associated Press

ST. LOUIS — A crude new method of making methamphetamine poses a risk even to Americans who never get anywhere near the drug: It is filling hospitals with thousands of uninsured burn patients requiring millions of dollars in advanced treatment — a burden so costly that it’s contributing to the closure of some burn units.

So-called shake-and-bake meth is produced by combining raw, unstable ingredients in a 2-liter soda bottle. But if the person mixing the noxious brew makes the slightest error, such as removing the cap too soon or accidentally perforating the plastic, the concoction can explode, searing flesh and causing permanent disfigurement, blindness or even death…

Be careful out there.


Drove the Chevy to the Levee…but the Levee Was Not Certified

USACE debris removal in North Dakota

Image by USACEpublicaffairs via Flickr

News from the National Association of Development Organizations, NADO:

FEMA Seeks Public Comment on Revised Analysis and Mapping Procedures for Levees

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is accepting comments on the proposed solution to revise flood mapping and analysis procedures for non-accredited levees on Flood Insurance Rate Maps. During the past months, FEMA has worked with stakeholders, technical experts, and the public to revise their current process for mapping flood risk to replace a one-size-fits-all approach with one that will take the unique conditions of each levee into consideration.  FEMA seeks input on this policy in terms of its feasibility, flexibility, and collaborative nature.  A 45-day public comment period is open until January 30, 2012. More information about the FEMA revisions can be found here and instructions for submitting comments can be found here.


Murray County AHMP Update

Public Notice

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The Murray County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on Thursday, October 20, 2011, commencing at 7:30 pm, in the County Commissioner’s Meeting Room, Murray County Government Center, Slayton, MN, to take public comment and to consider recommending the proposed Murray County All Hazard Mitigation Plan 2011 update to the Murray County Board of Commissioners for submission to Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management and U.S. FEMA for plan approval pending adoption.

The plan consists of six chapters and an appendix:  1. Introduction;  2. Prerequisites;  3. Planning Process;  4. Risk Assessment;  5. Mitigation Strategy;  6. Plan Maintenance. A copy of the proposed plan is available for review during normal business hours at the Murray County Auditor’s Office, located in the Murray County Government Center, Slayton, MN, and on the Murray County Website – All interested parties are invited to attend.  If you are unable to attend, any comments or questions may be submitted in writing by October 19, 2011, to the Murray County Environmental Services Office – PO Box 57, Slayton, MN  56172.

A copy of the update text is also available on SRDC’s website.

September is National Preparedness Month

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The White House has declared September as National Preparedness Month:

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release
August 31, 2011

Presidential Proclamation–National Preparedness Month




Whenever our Nation has been challenged, the American people have responded with faith, courage, and strength.  This year, natural disasters have tested our response ability across all levels of government.  Our thoughts and prayers are with those whose lives have been impacted by recent storms, and we will continue to stand with them in their time of need.  This September also marks the 10th anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, which united our country both in our shared grief and in our determination to prevent future generations from experiencing similar devastation.  Our Nation has weathered many hardships, but we have always pulled together as one Nation to help our neighbors prepare for, respond to, and recover from these extraordinary challenges.

In April of this year, a devastating series of tornadoes challenged our resilience and tested our resolve.  In the weeks that followed, people from all walks of life throughout the Midwest and the South joined together to help affected towns recover and rebuild.  In Joplin, Missouri, pickup trucks became ambulances, doors served as stretchers, and a university transformed itself into a hospital.  Local businesses contributed by using trucks to ship donations, or by rushing food to those in need.  Disability community leaders worked side-by-side with emergency managers to ensure that survivors with disabilities were fully included in relief and recovery efforts.  These stories reveal what we can accomplish through readiness and collaboration, and underscore that in America, no problem is too hard and no challenge is too great.

Preparedness is a shared responsibility, and my Administration is dedicated to implementing a “whole community” approach to disaster response.  This requires collaboration at all levels of government, and with America’s private and nonprofit sectors.  Individuals also play a vital role in securing our country.  The National Preparedness Month Coalition gives everyone the chance to join together and share information across the United States.  Americans can also support volunteer programs through, or find tools to prepare for any emergency by visiting the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Ready Campaign website at or

In the last few days, we have been tested once again by Hurricane Irene.  While affected communities in many States rebuild, we remember that preparedness is essential.  Although we cannot always know when and where a disaster will hit, we can ensure we are ready to respond.  Together, we can equip our families and communities to be resilient through times of hardship and to respond to adversity in the same way America always has — by picking ourselves up and continuing the task of keeping our country strong and safe.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 2011 as National Preparedness Month.  I encourage all Americans to recognize the importance of preparedness and observe this month by working together to enhance our national security, resilience, and readiness.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of August, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.




Mitigation Position in North Dakota

At the State of North Dakota:

Vacancy Announcement

Temporary Mitigation Grant Program Specialist
Department Of Emergency Services – Adjutant General

Location: Bismarck
Salary: $16.00 – $18.00/hr
Closing Date: September 12, 2011
Position Number: 540-9999
Requisition Number: None
Status: Full-time, Temporary (no benefits)
Type of Recruitment: Internal/External
Date Posted to Web: August 22, 2011

Minimum Qualifications:

Bachelor’s degree in Emergency Management, Public Safety, Business or Public Administration, Geology, Engineering, Accounting or a closely related field.  Or, an Associates degree in one of the above listed areas and two years of professional work experience related to emergency management with specialized knowledge in hazard mitigation project implementation or federal grant management.  Successful completion of the interview process, reference checks and background investigation are required.

Application Procedures:

Applicants must submit a cover letter, State of ND Application Form (SFN 10950) and a detailed resume.  Application materials can be mailed to Office of the Adjutant General, ATTN:  Cindy Pazdernik, PO Box 5511,  Bismarck, ND 58506-5511 or e-mailed to or faxed to (701) 333-2067 ATTN: Cindy.

Application forms are available from any ND Job Service office, Human Resource Management Services, or on the web at  Application materials must be received at the Human Resource Office, Bldg 030, Fraine Barracks by 5:00 pm on the closing date indicated.

Applicants who are residents of North Dakota and eligible to claim veteran’s preference must include Form DD214.  Claims for disabled veteran’s preference must include Form DD214 and a letter less than one year old from the Veteran’s Affairs Office indicating disability.  Claims for preference as the eligible spouse of a disabled or deceased veteran must include Form DD214, a marriage certificate, and a letter less than one year old from the Veteran’s Affairs Office indicating disability, or the veteran’s death certificate.

Contact Cindy Pazdernik at (701) 333-2082 for more information or if you need accommodation or assistance in the application or interview process.

Summary of Work:

Provide administrative support for emergency and disaster response for the Department of Emergency Services with direction from the State Hazard Mitigation Officer.  This position is located in a non-smoking work environment.

  1. Provide technical assistance to local, tribal and state officials in developing eligible Unified Hazard Mitigation Assistance (Unified HMA) grant project applications in accordance with federal, state, local, tribal laws and regulations.
  2. Evaluate mitigation project application benefit/cost ratio using FEMA approved Benefit/Cost Anaylsis model and applicable guidance.
  3. Enter mitigation project application data using the NEMIS software system.
  4. Monitor and provide technical assistance to local, tribal and state officals in the implementation of approved/awarded mitigation projects ensuring compliance with approved scope of work, cost estimate and performance period in accordance with approved grant award.
  5. Evaluate grant expense requests for eligible reimbursement in accordance with applicable federal and state laws.  Process eligible reimbursement using standard accounting practices and in accordance with appropriate federal and state laws, regulations, policies and guidance.
  6. Provide program briefings detailing the technical aspects of the Unified HMA programs.
  7. Must possess or demonstrate the potential to obtain proficient knowledge in project management, financial management and administrative processes.
  8. Working knowledge of the federal legal/regulatory basis for applicable hazard mitigation initiatives and programs applied through the Unified Hazard Mitigation Assistance (Unified HMA).
  9. Knowledgeable of MicroSoft Office software programs.
  10. Ability to multi-task and work within a fast paced work environment.
  11. Written and oral communication skills are required.
  12. Perform additional duties as required or assigned.
  13. In-state and out-of-state travel is required.
  14. Extra hours may be required during emergency operations or recovery.
Equal Opportunity Employer

If They Tweet, Will You Help?

Blandin on Broadband Blog noted this American Red Cross survey last year in a blog reflecting on the role of Social Media in the recent riots in England.  Are YOU prepared to respond to citizens seeking help by way of Twitter or Facebook?

Web Users Increasingly Rely on Social Media to Seek Help in a Disaster

New Red Cross survey shows 74 percent expect response agencies to answer social media calls for help within an hour.

WASHINGTON, Monday, August 09, 2010 — A new American Red Cross survey shows many web users would turn to social media to seek help for themselves or others during emergencies—and they expect first responders to be listening.

The online survey asked 1,058 adults about their use of social media sites in emergency situations. It found that if they needed help and couldn’t reach 9-1-1, one in five would try to contact responders through a digital means such as e-mail, websites or social media. If web users knew of someone else who needed help, 44 percent would ask other people in their social network to contact authorities, 35 percent would post a request for help directly on a response agency’s Facebook page and 28 percent would send a direct Twitter message to responders.

Web users also have clear expectations about how first responders should be answering their requests. The survey showed that 69 percent said that emergency responders should be monitoring social media sites in order to quickly send help—and nearly half believe a response agency is probably already responding to any urgent request they might see.

And the survey respondents expected quick response to an online appeal for help—74 percent expected help to come less than an hour after their tweet or Facebook post.

“The first and best choice for anyone in an emergency situation is to call 9-1-1,” said Gail McGovern, American Red Cross president and CEO. “But when phone lines are down or the 9-1-1 system is overwhelmed, we know that people will be persistent in their quest for help and use social media for that purpose.”

The Red Cross commissioned the survey in advance of an Emergency Social Data Summit set for Thursday, August 12, in Washington, D.C. The meeting, convened by the Red Cross, will bring together thought leaders and experts in the government, social media, emergency response and the non-profit sectors to discuss better ways to handle information that flows through the web during disasters.

“The social web is creating a fundamental shift in disaster response—one that will ask emergency managers, government agencies and aid organizations to mix time-honored expertise with real-time input from the public,” McGovern said. “We need to work together to better respond to that shift.”

The Red Cross survey also found that among web users, social media sites are the fourth most popular source for emergency information, just behind television news, radio and online news sites. More web users say they get their emergency information from social media than from a NOAA weather radio, government website or emergency text message system. One in five social media users also report posting eyewitness accounts of emergency events to their accounts.

Online Survey of 1,058 respondents representative of the U.S. population aged 18 and older. Survey conducted on July 22-23, 2010 by Infogroup | ORC.



Out of the Wreckage, A Light for Flood Mitigation

Minnesota River Flood - March 28, 2011

Image by mthaeg via Flickr

The State of Minnesota has emerged from a 20-day government shutdown with a new budget approved by the legislature and signed by the governor.  Included in that agreement is a State bonding bill funding, which had been previously defeated in May.

Among the many capital improvements now funded are several flood mitigation items, including (says House Research):

Subd. 3. Flood hazard mitigation. $50,000,000. Requires levee projects, to the
extent practical, to meet the state standard of three feet above the 100-year flood
elevation. Lists possible projects. Includes set-asides: $3 million for Georgetown, up to
$16.5 million for Moorhead, up to $6 million for Roseau, and $1 million for New Ulm.
Local share for property acquisitions in Clay county not to exceed $1 million. To the
extent the cost of a project exceeds 2 percent of the median household income in the
municipality multiplied by the number of households in the municipality, the
appropriation is also for the local share of the project.

And this for my neighborhood:

Area II Minnesota River Basin. $1,000,000 for grants to local
governments in Area II for floodwater retention systems. Requires at least $1 nonstate
for every $3 state.

Minnesota Public Radio notes that while much of the bonding money is headed to the Red River Valley, these cities have put a lot of work into flood mitigation—Moorhead alone has already bought out over 100 homes to date.

Interesting how things work out.