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Building Science Resource Library

The Building Science Resource Library contains all of FEMA’s hazard-specific guidance that focuses on creating disaster-resistance communities.

You can search for a document by its title, or filter the collection to browse by:

  • Disaster Type: High winds, flood, earthquake, etc.
  • Document Type: Brochure, report, fact sheet, infographic, etc.
  • Audience: Building professionals & engineers, individuals & homeowners, teachers & kids, etc.
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Best Available Refuge Area Checklist

The Best Available Refuge Area (BARA) Checklist may also be downloaded from the link on this page.

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Building Science Support and Code Changes Aiding Sandy Recovery Fact Sheet No. 3

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy made landfall, devastating New Jersey and New York with tens of billions of dollars in damages. Since then, recovery activities have focused on increasing resilience of buildings and the lifeline infrastructure. Significant progress on this front, described in this fact sheet, includes:

- Deployment of the Hurricane Sandy Mitigation Assessment Team (MAT) to assess damage and make recommendations
- Updated building codes at the local, State, and national levels
- Recovery projects across New Jersey, New York, and New York City to restore critical facilities and infrastructure
- Developing a culture of resilient recovery in building mitigation and risk reduction actions

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Community Safe Room Fact Sheet

This fact sheet provides information about safe rooms and explains that a safe room is a room or structure specifically designed and constructed to resist wind pressures and wind-borne debris impacts during an extreme wind event, like tornadoes and hurricanes, for the purpose of providing life-safety protection.

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Community Tornado Safe Room Doors Installation and Maintenance Fact Sheet

Safe room door assemblies are one of the most important components of a safe room because they must provide the same level of protection as the walls and roof, yet also remain functional for quick access. This fact sheet provides information about the selection, installation, and maintenance of safe room door assemblies for community safe rooms. It is recommended that safe room door assembles are regularly maintained to protect their functionality and maximize their life span. The fact sheet covers what should be checked and how often, as well as several solutions related to the maintenance of safe room door assemblies. While the fact sheet discusses community safe room door assemblies, some of the information in the fact sheet is pertinent to owners of residential safe rooms.

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FEMA 281, Mitigation Assessment Team Report: Hurricane Opal in Florida

Hurricane Opal made landfall on October 4, 1995, as a Category 3 storm. Fifteen counties in the Florida Panhandle were declared Federal disaster areas. Field inspections were concentrated along a 200-mile stretch of Florida's Gulf of Mexico shoreline. Most of the structural damage associated with the storm was caused by coastal flood forces: storm surge, wind-generated waves, storm-induced erosion, and floodborne debris. The types of structural damage included slab foundations, pile and pier foundations, and framing systems. Recommendations for reconstruction include the application of v-zone construction requirements; construction materials should meet or exceed the minimum requirements for building materials in the Standard Building Code; slab and grade beams designed as freestanding structural elements; and pile, post, column, and pier foundations designed to accommodate all design flood, wind, and other loads simultaneously.

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FEMA 290, Mitigation Assessment Team Report: Hurricane Fran in North Carolina

On September 5, 1996, Hurricane Fran made landfall near Cape Fear, North Carolina. Coastal areas experienced significant erosion and scour. Erosion caused by Hurricane Fran was exacerbated by the previous dune erosion caused by Hurricane Bertha, which made landfall in the same area only two months earlier. The MAT observed very little damage in some areas, where velocity flows, wave action, and severe erosion occurred. The successful performance of buildings in these areas demonstrates the value of compliance with the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) requirements.

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FEMA 331, Protecting Business Operations - 2nd Report on Costs and Benefits of Natural Hazard Mitigation

Floodwaters can submerge critical equipment, hurricane-force winds can rip sections of roofing off production facilities, and earthquakes can bring down suspended ceilings in office facilities.

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FEMA 338, Building Performance Assessment Team (BPAT) Report - Hurricane Georges in the Gulf Coast

This report presents FEMA's Building Performance Assessment Team's (BPAT) observations on the success and failure of buildings in the Florida Keys and Gulf Coast areas of the United States to withstand the wind and flood forces generated by Hurricane Georges. Recommendations to improve the building performance in future natural disasters in this area are included as well.

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FEMA 342, Building Performance Assessment Team Report - Midwest Tornadoes of May 3, 1999

In response to the disasters caused by the May 3 tornadoes, FEMA deployed a Building Performance Assessment Team (BPAT), composed of national experts in engineering, architecture, meteorology, and planning, to Oklahoma and Kansas. The mission of the BPAT was to assess the performance of buildings affected by the tornadoes, investigate losses, and describe the lessons learned. This report presents the BPATs observations, conclusions, and recommendations, which are intended to help communities, businesses, and individuals reduce future injuries and the loss of life and property resulting from tornadoes and other high-wind events.

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FEMA 490, Mitigation Assessment Team Report: Summary Report on Building Performance 2004 Hurricane Season

The purpose of this document is to summarize the observations, conclusions, and recommendations that were obtained during post-disaster assessments sponsored by the FEMA Mitigation Division in response to Florida 2004 hurricane season. More than ten rapid response teams and two Mitigation Assessment Teams (MATs) were deployed to document observations and provide recommendations. The rapid response data collection teams focused on coastal high water marks, inland wind effects, residential and commercial building performance, critical and essential facility performance, and mitigation program effectiveness. The MATs assessed damage to the built environment and relied on the perishable data, such as high water marks, collected by the rapid response teams to quantify flood and wind effects of the hurricanes.

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FEMA 543, Design Guide for Improving Critical Facility Safety from Flooding and High Winds: Providing Protection to People and Buildings

To aid in the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, this manual presents an overview of the principal planning and design considerations for improving the performance of critical facilities during, and in the aftermath of, flooding and high-wind events. It provides design guidance and practical recommendations for protecting critical facilities and their occupants against these natural hazards. The focus is on the design for new construction, but this manual also addresses rehabilitation of existing critical facilities. It presents incremental approaches that can be implemented over time to decrease the vulnerability of buildings, but emphasizes the importance of incorporating the requirements for mitigation against flooding and high winds into the planning and design of critical facilities from the very beginning of the process.

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FEMA 548, Summary Report on Building Performance: Hurricane Katrina 2005

In the weeks following Hurricane Katrina, a Mitigation Assessment Team (MAT) was deployed to the affected Gulf Coast areas to assess the performance of buildings. Based on the observed damage, the MAT also evaluated the adequacy of current building codes and provided suggestions to update the codes.

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FEMA Building Science Resources to Assist with Reconstruction After an Extreme-Wind Event

FEMA has produced numerous publications detailing best practices for natural hazard mitigation associated with extreme-wind impacts. This Fact Sheet summarizes a few of the readily available publications and resources that can be used by homeowners, as well as design and construction professionals, during reconstruction following extreme-wind events.

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FEMA L-780, Building Science for Disaster-Resistant Communities: Wind Hazard Publications

This brochure provides readers with a quick summary of publications that will help them prepare for and mitigate against wind hazards. The Building Science Branch develops and produces technical guidance and tools focused on fostering a disaster-resistant built environment. Located within FEMA’s Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration’s (FIMA’s) Risk Reduction Division, the Building Science Branch supports FIMA's mission to reduce risk to life and property by providing state-of-the-art technical hazard mitigation solutions for buildings.

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FEMA P-2062, Guidelines for Wind Vulnerability Assessments of Existing Critical Facilities

Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 as well as other recent storms, including Hurricane Michael in 2018, resulted in extensive wind damage to critical facilities in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Florida. This manual provides design professionals with guidelines for assessing the vulnerability of critical facilities to wind pressure, wind-borne debris, and wind-driven rain. The manual incorporates observations and lessons learned from recent hurricanes, current building code requirements, past hurricanes, and other historic high wind events. The guidelines apply to critical facilities both within and outside hurricane-prone regions and to critical facilities in tornado-prone regions.

The results of an assessment can be used by building owners; design professionals; entities that award repair, reconstruction, or mitigation grants; as well as state, local, tribal, and territorial government agencies developing mitigation plans.

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FEMA P-320, Taking Shelter from the Storm: Building or Installing a Safe Room for Your Home

FEMA P-320 presents updated and refined criteria for residential safe rooms through reference to the newly updated fourth edition of FEMA P-361 (FEMA, 2021a), Safe Rooms for Tornadoes and Hurricanes: Guidance for Community and Residential Safe Rooms. FEMA P-320 draws on these updated criteria to address how to design and construct a safe room for a one- or two-family dwelling that provides near-absolute protection from wind and wind-borne debris for occupants.

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FEMA P-320: Taking Shelter from the Storm

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FEMA P-361, History and Relevant FEMA Building Science Activities

This document will contain the background and history of FEMA P-361 as well as the tornado and hurricane events that were researched to inform the necessary criteria for safe room design.

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FEMA P-361: Safe Rooms for Tornadoes and Hurricanes: Guidance for Community and Residential Safe Rooms

This publication presents important information about the design and construction of community and residential safe rooms that will provide protection during tornado and hurricane events. The third edition of FEMA P-361 presents updated and refined criteria for safe rooms compared to the second edition’s 2008 criteria. This edition also features clarified guidance and revised commentary to reflect 6 more years of post-damage assessments and lessons learned, including those based on many safe rooms directly impacted by tornadoes.

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FEMA P-388, Safe Room Posters, Brochures, Quick Guides and Additional Resources (2015)

The materials are intended to help communities mitigate damage or loss from tornadoes and other extreme-wind events, and provide public information resources for conveying the importance of safe room construction. This is part of FEMA’s ongoing mitigation effort to lessen the impact that disasters have on people and property.