As hurricane season gets underway and the East Coast eyes Tropical Storm Andrea, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) called on Congress this week to re-authorize the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program (NWIRP) through a current proposed resolution, H.R. 1786. IBHS officials spoke during a joint hearing of the House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittees on Research and Technology.
“Given the broad geographic threat of windstorms, the frequency of events, and the tremendous human loss and financial toll on families, businesses and communities, we are very pleased to see the attention given to windstorm research at this hearing today,” said Debra Ballen, IBHS general counsel and senior vice president of public policy.
“The recent tragic tornadoes in Oklahoma, a storm named Sandy that ravaged the Northeast last fall, and previous storms named Andrew and Katrina, as well as other wind-related events in places like Joplin and Tuscaloosa are all salient reminders of the destructive power of wind. Sadly, numerous less infamous wind disasters also have wreaked havoc on families and communities throughout the U.S. If we are to significantly reduce wind losses across the country, we must reduce the vulnerability of homes and businesses to wind-related hazards.” Ballen continued.
Ballen showed subcommittee members a video with two homes built using different construction standards placed side by side in IBHS’ large test chamber and subject to the same windstorm conditions, conducted last summer at the group’s research facility in Chester County, S.C.
“As you think about both the loss of life and property if this had been a real event with people inside the home that was destroyed, you can understand the importance of communications as a complement to research in order to get people to pay attention, change attitudes and ultimately demand safer, stronger buildings,” Ballen told the subcommittees.
“A coordinated well-funded federal research program is needed to develop performance-based design tools for wind risks, similar to the federal research program enabling performance-based design for seismic risks. IBHS supports designating the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as the lead agency for NWIRP to provide better coordination of federal windstorm research efforts. We also support funding and research roles for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Working together, along with private research partners, these agencies can advance windstorm research that ultimately will result in more effective property mitigation against this formidable natural hazard,” said Ballen. “Given its important societal benefits, property mitigation is a public health objective, economic imperative and humanitarian obligation. Every region of our country is vulnerable to one or more potentially devastating natural hazards, which is why improving disaster mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery must be a national priority. Reauthorizing the NWIRP with appropriate funding is a good start toward that goal.”
If passed, the legislation would “amend the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Act of 2004 to revise provisions governing the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program [and] designate NIST as the entity with primary responsibility for Program planning and coordination,” according to information from the Library of Congress.
The legislation would establish an Interagency Coordinating Committee on Windstorm Impact Reduction that would develop a strategic plan for the program that includes:
(1) Prioritized goals that will mitigate against the loss of life and property from future windstorms;
(2) Research objectives to achieve those goals;
(3) A description of the role of each program agency in achieving such goals;
(4) The methods by which progress will be assessed; and
(5) An explanation of how the program will foster the transfer of research results into outcomes, such as improved model building codes.
The committee would remain in effect through September 2016.