Skip to content

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"...

Image via Wikipedia

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

A graphic representation of the four phases in...

Image via Wikipedia

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

U.S. Presidential flag, 1960-present (not usua...

Image via Wikipedia

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.