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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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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.

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Building Codes Help Move The Resiliency Gauge

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Building Codes Save: A Nationwide Study

Losses Avoided as a Result of Adopting Hazard-Resistant Building Codes

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Building Codes Support A Resilient Community

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Building Science Branch Brochures

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).

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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.

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FEMA 247, Against the Wind: Protecting Your Home from Hurricane and Wind Damage

This brochure discusses some things homeowners can do to before the next hurricane strikes. Including improvements or temporary wind protection. It is important that these projects are completed before a hurricane threatens.

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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 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.

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FEMA P-1019, 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.

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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

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FEMA P-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.

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FEMA P-424, Design Guide for Improving School Safety in Earthquakes, Floods, and High Winds

This manual is intended to provide guidance for the protection of school buildings from natural disasters. This volume concentrates on grade schools, K-12. FEMA P-424 covers earthquakes, floods, and high winds. Its intended audience is design professionals and school officials involved in the technical and financial decisions of school construction, repair, and renovations. NOTE: This publication is available free to Local and State government staff. All other interested parties can obtain this publication via online download only.

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FEMA P-758, Substantial Improvement/Substantial Damage Desk Reference

To participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), communities must adopt and enforce regulations and codes that apply to new development in Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs). Local floodplain management regulations and codes contain minimum NFIP requirements that apply not only to new structures, but also to existing structures which are “substantially improved (SI)” or “substantially damaged (SD).” This Desk Reference provides practical guidance and suggested procedures to implement the NFIP requirements for SI/SD.

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

FEMA 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.

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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.

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FEMA P-798, Natural Hazards and Sustainability for Residential Buildings 

The purpose of this document is to describe the interactions, both positive and negative, between common green building practices and the robustness of residential buildings to withstand natural hazards. Understanding these interactions will benefit users—particularly designers, builders, code officials, and homeowners—by providing a perspective that green building practices, while important on their own, must be part of a larger sustainable building design context that encompasses life safety, disaster resistance, and other related issues. Many hazard resistance issues are addressed in model building codes such as the International Residential Code (IRC). However, some of the building modifications introduced by green building practices create design, detailing, and installation challenges that are not covered by the IRC’s provisions. This document identifies specific areas in which special attention to a few small details will maintain or increase natural hazard resistance.

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FEMA Policy and Building Code Decision Tree

Substantial Structural Damage and Substantial Damage are two conditions that require a building to improve beyond its pre-damage state. In addition, FEMA Public Assistance (PA) policy also allows the improvement of a damaged building through replacement when the cost of repair would exceed 50% of the replacement cost. This document guides FEMA staff, PA grant applicants or their representatives, state hazard mitigation officers, and others through the process of making these determinations and decisions.

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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.

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Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves 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.