Following a disaster, it is important for communities to not only rebuild, but to rebuild safer and smarter. Within the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Mitigation Assessment Team (MAT) helps communities rebuild smarter. Its main objectives are to inspect buildings and related infrastructure, conduct forensic engineering analyses to determine causes of structural failure and success, and recommend actions that state and local governments, the construction industry and building code organizations can take to reduce future damages and protect lives and property in hazard areas.
Located in the Building Science Branch of the Flood Insurance Mitigation Administration (FIMA) at FEMA Headquarters, MAT uses a consensus approach of both public subject matter experts and those from private industry to identify key findings and recommendations for building performance following large disasters.
Based on MAT’s work, recommendations have been submitted to both the New York State and New York City Building Codes to strengthen the flood-related disaster-resistant provisions in those Codes. There has been extensive interaction with the NYC Mayor’s Office Initiatives including providing recommendations for the Housing Recovery Office on mitigation options as well as for the Sandy Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency.
Taken all together, the MAT’s work and the Building Science expertise is helping inform both short and long term recovery and impacting rebuilding decisions happening now and in the future. These efforts directly support the emphasis on disaster-resistant rebuilding and building codes found in FEMA and FIMA strategic plans.
While Hurricane Sandy devastated coastal areas throughout New York City, it did not affect all buildings and infrastructure equally. Part of MAT’s approach to rebuilding smarter is to examine what works and what does not. For example, the New York University Langone Medical Center Complex has seven buildings, all built at different times from the 1940s up to 1997. Following Hurricane Sandy, only one, the Skirball Building, was fully operational after two months. As the newest building, it was the only one built without a basement, meaning its utility equipment was stored above the flooding.
Working with local, state and federal partners and the private sector, MAT’s findings will be used to help establish improved disaster-resistant construction codes and standards, designs, methods, materials, and best practices for both new construction and post-disaster repair and recovery.
In New York, the MAT is looking at:
- Residential buildings along the coast of New York City and Long Island
- High-rise buildings in Manhattan
- Hospitals in New York City and Long Island
- Police, fire, rescue, municipal and school buildings in New York City and Long Island
- Other critical facilities such as transit stations and gas stations in Manhattan and other Boroughs
To achieve its goal, MAT is comprised of sub-teams, each with a particular focus: Coastal; Hospitals and other Critical Infrastructure; High-Rise, Police, Fire, and Schools; and Historic. Each sub-team has members from different stakeholders and agencies, including FEMA, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Increased Cost of Compliance, National Association of Home Builders, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, industry representatives and higher education and national subject matter experts.
Successful hazard mitigation depends in part on the application of MAT findings and recommendations to new construction and retrofitting by sharing information and applicable technology with state and local governments and the private sector. This sharing of information is critical to the process. FEMA widely distributes the information using a variety of media, including:
- A MAT report which will compile the observations, conclusions, and recommendations of the MAT investigation in New York. A full list of past FEMA MAT Reports is available at: fema.gov/fema-mitigation-assessment-team-reports
- Technical manuals, fact sheets, recovery advisories and mitigation guides
- Internet resources
- Workshops and training
Lessons learned from MAT findings will also be used to help establish improved disaster-resistant construction codes and standards, designs, methods, materials and best practices for both new construction and post-disaster repair and recovery.
For Hurricane Sandy Building Science Activities and Resources, please visit fema.gov/building-science/hurricane-sandy-building-science-activities-resources.
For more information, see the FEMA Building Science MAT program website at fema.gov/mitigation-assessment-team-program.
If you have any additional questions about FEMA Building Science, please see FEMA Building Science Frequently Asked Questions at fema.gov/building-science.