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Building Science - Multi-Hazard Publications

Communities prone to multiple hazards such as earthquakes, floods, and high winds must consider all possible events when making buildings safer. FEMA Building Science has developed publications to assist different stakeholder groups in their efforts to make buildings more resilient against these events. Following this guidance will allow your community to develop stronger buildings that will experience less damages as well as keep building occupants safe.

You can order publications from the FEMA Distribution Center.

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FEMA P-2055, Post-disaster Building Safety Evaluation Guidance

This report is on the current state of practice for post-disaster building safety evaluation, including recommendations related to structural and nonstructural safety and habitability. FEMA P-2055 summarizes and references best practice guideline documents or provides interim recommendations for issues without best practice guidance. It also identifies recommended improvements and needs, including a primer for state, local, tribal, and territorial governments that have the authority to set standards or policy related to the implementation of post-disaster evaluations, to protect the design professionals who volunteer as evaluators, and legislation to create the authority to evaluate and post buildings, deputize evaluators, and restrict occupancy.

The following incident types are covered in the Guide: earthquakes; hurricanes; floods; tornadoes; tsunamis; landslides and other land instabilities; volcanoes; snow, hail, and ice storms; fire; and explosions. The Guide can be a reference for any post-incident evaluation process and is not limited by the scale or official declaration of a disaster.

This Guide was developed as required by the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018, Section 1241: Post-disaster Building Safety Assessment. For more information please see: https://www.fema.gov/disaster-recovery-reform-act-2018

Protect Your Business from All Natural Hazards

Protecting your business from disasters caused by natural hazards can involve a variety of actions, from inspecting and maintaining your buildings to installing protective devices. Most of these actions, especially those that affect the structure of your buildings or their utility systems, should be carried out by qualified maintenance staff or professional contractors licensed to work in your state, county, or city. One example of disaster protection is safely storing the important documents, electronic files, raw materials, and inventory required for the operation of your business.

Building Code Saves: Nationwide Losses Prevention Infographic

Outlines the background and process of the study.

Resilience Lunch and Learn Losses Avoided Webinar

Presentation materials from the FEMA Resilience Learning Session held on 8/7/2019.

Building Code Save Factsheet

Building Codes Save: Factsheet

FEMA 213, Answers to Questions About Substantially Improved/Substantially Damaged Buildings

The questions and answers in the 2018 update to FEMA 213 provide guidance for many concerns regarding Substantial Improvement (SI) and Substantial Damage (SD) of buildings in Special Flood Hazard Areas. The publication answers questions about pertinent definitions and regulations and some general questions about SI/SD and determining when buildings are Substantially Improved or have incurred Substantial Damage. Revised FEMA 213 also addresses common questions that arise about SI/SD in the post-disaster period. Each question refers readers to specific sections and more complete guidance in FEMA P-758, Substantial Improvement/Substantial Damage Desk Reference.

FEMA P-1000, Safer, Stronger, Smarter: A Guide to Improving School Natural Hazard Safety

This Guide provides up-to-date, authoritative information and guidance that schools can use to develop a comprehensive strategy for addressing natural hazards. It is intended to be used by administrators, facilities managers, emergency managers, emergency planning committees, and teachers and staff at K through 12 schools. It can also be valuable for state officials, district administrators, school boards, teacher union leaders, and others that play a role in providing safe and disaster-resistant schools for all. Parents, caregivers, and students can also use this Guide to learn about ways to advocate for safe schools in their communities.

FEMA P-784, Substantial Damage Estimator (SDE) Tool

EMA developed the SDE tool to assist State and local officials in estimating Substantial Damage for residential and non-residential structures in accordance with the requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) as adopted by the communities. The tool can be used to assess flood, wind, wildfire, seismic, and other forms of damage. It helps communities provide timely Substantial Damage determinations so that reconstruction can begin quickly following a disaster.

Although the SDE data collection and reporting process remains relatively unchanged from previous versions of the tool, the SDE 3.0 release focuses on enhancing the three key areas of performance, data accessibility, and usability. Updates to the tool’s algorithms and some new embedded functionality create significant performance enhancements over previous versions. Users can now access the underlying database to run queries, perform bulk updates of data, or generate custom reports using their own databases and reporting tools. SDE 3.0 improves the user experience with dozens of enhancements that address user feedback.

Before installing the new version, export any existing SDE data that you want saved from previous SDE versions.

General Guidance for Installation and Use of SDE 3.0

- Although it is not required, FEMA recommends that users uninstall previous versions of SDE from the host computer to avoid confusion between past and current inventories.

- Refer to the SDE Read Me – SDE 3.0 Tool Installation Guide (2017)

FEMA P-784, Substantial Damage Estimator (SDE) 3.0 User Manual and Field Workbook

FEMA P-784, Substantial Damage Estimator (SDE) User Manual and Field Workbook: Using the SDE Tool to Perform Substantial Damage Determinations (August 2017) document have been updated to reflect the enhanced tool.

FEMA P-784, Substantial Damage Estimator Best Practices

The FEMA Substantial Damage Estimator Best Practices (2017) document suggests approaches for dealing with some of the challenging situations users may encounter while using the SDE tool. After a disaster, the complexity of field conditions and the need to prepare for and perform SDE inspections to assess damage can present numerous challenges. This document contains suggested solutions to some common challenges that SDE users may encounter. The information and methods can be used by Federal, State, and local officials when developing SDE-based inventories of potentially substantially damaged residential and non-residential structures. The guidance is organized into three phases of SDE management: 1. Planning for Data Collection, 2. Field Work, and 3. SDE Quality Assurance Reviews.

FEMA P-784, Substantial Damage Estimator Forms Combined

FEMA P-784, Substantial Damage Estimator Read Me – SDE 3.0 Tool Installation Guide

General Guidance for Installation and Use of SDE 3.0

- Although it is not required, FEMA recommends that users uninstall previous versions of SDE from the host computer to avoid confusion between past and current inventories.

Understanding Substantial Damage in the International Building Code, International Existing Building Code, or International Residential Code

This document will help you understand the concept of Substantial Damage (SD) and how to determine if a building meets this criterion. FEMA's Public Assistance Required Minimum Standards Policy found in the Public Assistance Program and Policy Guide, Chapter 2 – Section VII.B.2, requires that projects receiving FEMA assistance for repair or replacement incorporate the natural hazards-related provisions of the most recent edition of the International Code Council's® (ICC®) International Building Code (IBC®), International Existing Building Code® (IEBC®), and/or International Residential Code® (IRC®), known collectively as the I-Codes. The Policy applies to buildings that have received designations of Substantial Structural Damage, Substantial Damage or are eligible for replacement in accordance with 44 CFR Part 206.226(f).

Understanding Substantial Structural Damage in the International Existing Building Code

This document will help you understand how the concept of Substantial Structural Damage (SSD) is used within the International Existing Building Code® (IEBC®). FEMA's Public Assistance Required Minimum Standards Policy found in the Public Assistance Program and Policy Guide, Chapter 2 – Section VII.B.2, requires that projects receiving FEMA assistance for repair or replacement incorporate the natural hazards-related provisions of the most recent edition of the International Code Council's® (ICC®) International Building Code® (IBC®), International Residential Code® (IRC®), and/or the IEBC. The policy applies to buildings that have sustained any level of damage (including, possibly, SSD or Substantial Damage), as well as projects involving new construction, such as improved projects, alternate projects, or projects eligible for replacement in accordance with 44 CFR, Part 206.226(f). The relevant code provisions include not only the design criteria for repair or replacement construction, but also those provisions that determine whether repair to the pre-damage condition is sufficient, or whether repair must be supplemented by improvement. One of those scope-determining provisions involves the concept of SSD.

Announcing Version 3.0 of the Substantial Damage Estimator (SDE) Tool Flyer

The Substantial Damage Estimator (SDE) Tool was:

Developed to assist State and local officials in determining substantial damage in accordance with a local floodplain management ordinance meeting the requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

Can be used to assess flood, wind, wildfire, seismic, and other forms of damage

Helps communities to provide timely substantial damage determinations so that reconstruction can begin following a disaster.

Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves Study


Summary of Findings for the National Institute of Building Science’s Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves 2017 Interim Report provides benefit-cost ratios (BCRs) for several hazard types and mitigation measures. Focal points of this interim report are the net benefits of federal hazard mitigation grant projects and exceeding building code requirements. Specifically, the costs and benefits of designing new construction to exceed select provisions of the 2015 International Building Code (IBC), the 2015 International Residential Code (IRC) and implementation of the 2015 International Wildland-Urban Interface Code (IWUIC), which resulted in a national benefit of $4 for every $1 invested. Additionally studied were the net benefits of impacts of 23 years of federal mitigation grants provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Economic Development Administration (EDA) and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), resulting in a national benefit of $6 for every $1 invested. The full report can be found at http://www.nibs.org/page/mitigationsaves.

Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: 2017 Interim Report

Federal Mitigation Grants Save $6 per $1 Spent, Exceeding Codes Saves $4 per $1 Spent.

Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: 2017 Interim Report Poster

Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves Interim Report Fact Sheet

Natural hazard mitigation saves $6 on average for every $1 spent on federal mitigation grants, according to an analysis by the National Institute of Building Sciences. An earlier (2005) study by NIBS found a benefit-cost ratio (BCR) of 4:1.

FEMA P-787, Catalog of FEMA Building Science Branch Publications and Training Courses

Now in its fifth edition, this catalog includes descriptions of available FEMA publications, training courses, and workshops for natural hazards. The publication descriptions are first organized by primary hazard (earthquake, flood, high wind, multi-hazard, and other), and then by stakeholder groups: individuals and homeowners, teachers and kids, private sector and small business, community planning and policy, building professionals and engineers (contractors, builders, engineers, and architects), and Mitigation Assessment Team (MAT) reports, which are applicable to all stakeholders. Listings are further arranged by subject areas and in order of publication date (the most recent first) in the text. These materials are also listed by FEMA publication number in Table 1 starting on page 107. Each listing includes a set of icons that indicates the applicable hazards and whether the resource is available online, on CD, and/or in print.

At present the fifth edition is only available as a download. The print and CD versions will be available in the near future.

You can order this item as a CD or a hardcopy from the FEMA Distribution Center.

Coastal Construction Manual Brochure

This brochure briefly explains that the Coastal Construction manual provides a comprehensive approach to sensible development in coastal areas based on guidance from over 200 experts in building science, coastal hazard mitigation, and building codes and regulatory requirements.

Standard Operating Procedures for Mitigation Assessment Team Process

To make the Mitigation Assessment Team (MAT) process an integral part of disaster response and hazard mitigation activities, FEMA has developed a MAT Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). The SOP is a proactive and comprehensive approach to the planning, pre-deployment, deployment, field assessment, and post-deployment functions of a MAT. Under this approach, whenever possible, the process for determining the need for assembling and deploying a MAT begins well in advance of the disaster event itself, and the potential members of the MAT will have already been identified, qualified, and placed on “standby” for deployment by FEMA.

Risk Management Series Brochure

The Risk Management Series (RMS) is a new FEMA series directed at providing design guidance for mitigating multihazard events. The objective of the series is to reduce physical damage to structural and nonstructural components of buildings and related infrastructure and to reduce resultant casualties during natural and manmade disasters. This brochure lists and briefly describes select publications available in the RMS.

Hardened First Responder Facility: 911 Communication and Emergency Operations Center

The state-of-the-art hardened first responder facility in Smith County, Texas, serves as a centralized 911 communications dispatch and emergency operations center (EOC) for approximately 30 agencies. Notable features of this 15,000-square-foot facility include a roof and exterior walls hardened to resist tornadic forces, a lobby designed to minimize blast effects, multiple security access levels, and an area specifically planned for press conferences, interviews, and other interaction with members of the media.

Emergency Power Systems for Critical Facilities: A Best Practices Approach to Improving Reliability

There is a significant likelihood that utility power will not be available for an extended period of time during severe natural hazard events. Thus, it is necessary for critical facilities to have reliable sources of sustained electrical power to achieve continued operation. This document provides guidance on the design and operation of emergency power systems in critical facilities so that they will be able to remain operational for extended periods, as needed.

Building Science Branch Brochure

Every year, natural disasters and man-made hazard events cause fatalities and injuries and cost billions of dollars in property damage throughout the United States. The FEMA Building Science Branch (BSB) studies these hazards and provides technical services within FEMA, to the rest of the federal government, and to our private sector partners. With a focus on earthquake, wind, flood, and other natural and man-made hazards, BSB takes a lead role in developing state-of-the-art publications, guidance materials, tools, training, technical bulletins, and recovery advisories that incorporate the most up-to-date building codes, flood damage-resistant requirements, seismic design guidelines, and wind design requirements for new and existing buildings. To help create disaster-resilient communities, key BSB activities include deploying Mitigation Assessment Teams to conduct post-disaster engineering investigations for a wide range of hazard events. BSB is also one of four agencies that make up the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP).

Earthquake (FEMA P-1085)

Earthquakes are one of the most destructive natural phenomena and, if they occur in a populated area, can cause many deaths, injuries, and extensive property damage.

Floods (FEMA P-1086)

Floods are one of the most frequent hazards in the U.S. In the past five years alone, all 50 states have experienced floods or flash floods.

Multihazard (FEMA P-1087)

Every year, natural disasters and man-made hazard events cause fatalities and injuries, and cost billions of dollars in property damage throughout the United States.

Other Hazards (FEMA P-1088)

Other hazards include snow, landslides, wildfire, hail, and human-made disasters.

Wind Hazards (FEMA P-1089)

During a windstorm, the force of the wind pushes against the outside of your home. Homes can be damaged or destroyed when the energy from the wind is not properly transferred to the ground.

Last updated Jul 27, 2020

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