Main Content

FEMA Fact Sheet: Mitigation Assessment Team Results – Hurricane Sandy

After major disasters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will deploy Mitigation Assessment Teams (MATs) to conduct engineering analyses to assess damage to government facilities, homes, businesses and other structures, and to determine the causes of structural failures and successes. Based on a comprehensive analysis of data, MATs prepare recommendations for construction codes and standards, building design issues and best practices.

Working in collaboration with state and local governments and a wide range of technical expertise from the private sector, the Hurricane Sandy MATs helped building science research be implemented into practice to make New Jersey, New York, and the entire nation stronger and safer through forensic analysis of the damages.

Hurricane Sandy Background: NOAA's National Hurricane Center (Sandy MAT Report, Figure 1-1)

Hurricane Sandy formed deep in the Caribbean and affected a large swath of countries including Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas before making landfall at Brigantine, NJ, north of Atlantic City on October 29, 2012. At landfall, it was a Category 2 hurricane with a wind span of over 1,150 miles across.

Hurricane Sandy affected 24 states, including the entire eastern seaboard. States from Florida to Maine and west across the Appalachian Mountains to Michigan and Wisconsin were impacted.

New Jersey and New York were hit the hardest. Storm surge flooded the New York City streets, tunnels and subway lines and cut power in and around the City. In New Jersey, more than 346,000 homes were damaged or destroyed and more than two million people lost power.

In addition to damages from flood and wind, extensive snowfall caused roof failures and power outages in several northern states inland.

At an estimated cost of $70.2 billion, Hurricane Sandy is the second costliest storm behind only Hurricane Katrina as cited on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information website. This site provides historic data of United States Billion-dollar disaster events, summaries report links and statistics from 1980 to the present.

FEMA deploys Hurricane Sandy Mitigation Assessment Teams:
Photo - The house on the left was built 2' above the base flood elevation and survived Sandy intact. (MAT Figure 3-34)
The house on the left was built 2 feet above the base flood elevation and remained intact during storm. Red line shows the high-water mark on the house next door (MAT Figure 3-34).

After unique or nationally significant disasters like Sandy, FEMA studies how buildings perform to better understand how natural and manmade events affect the built environment.

The MATs study the adequacy of current building codes, local construction requirements, building practices, and building materials in light of the damage observed after a disaster. The MATs assess strategic lessons learned to improve building codes, standards, and industry guidance on a national level. The MATs also review the effectiveness of (1) FEMA mitigation grants and (2) key engineering principles and practices that FEMA promotes in its published guidance and best practices resources and documents.

Recommendations from the MAT’s observations and assessments are shared in Recovery Advisories, Fact Sheets, and a comprehensive report, FEMA P-942, Mitigation Assessment Team Report: Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey and New York.  

The Hurricane Sandy MAT members included a wide

Above: The intact dune with scarping saved the Seaside Park, NJ boardwalk, road and houses from damage. Below: Ortley Beach, NJ was not so lucky (MAT Figure 3-3).
variety of experts: 
  • State, county and local officials, and locally-based experts in the assessment process;
  • Structural, civil, mechanical, coastal, and electrical engineers;
  • Floodplain management, building code, materials, historical, critical facilities, urban floodproofing, housing, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) experts;
  • Healthcare specialists;
  • Architects and architectural historians; and floodplain mappers
  • State, county and local officials, and locally-based experts in the assessment process

The MATs studied various elements of the disaster: Ortley Beach, NJ was not so lucky (MAT Figure 3-3).

  • Coastal impacts;
  • Damages and operational impacts to hospitals and other critical facilities;
  • Damages and operational impacts to high-rises, police, fire, and schools; and
  • Damages to historically significant buildings

Each MAT visited several locations in New Jersey and New York to assess the performance of specific building and facility types.  

Results
Three Photos - Two houses side-by-side in Seaside Park, NJ. House A is completely destroyed. House B invested in a series of strap connectors (red circle) that held the house together during the storm. See FEMA’s Coastal Construction manual for technical guidance on building stronger and safer along the coast. (MAT Figures 3-40, 3-41, and 3-42)..
Two houses side-by-side in Seaside Park, NJ. House A is completely destroyed. House B invested in a series of strap connectors (red circle) that held the house together during the storm. See FEMA’s Coastal Construction manual for technical guidance on building stronger and safer along the coast. (MAT Figures 3-40, 3-41, and 3-42)..

The Hurricane Sandy MAT Report made over 50 recommendations. To date, roughly 70-75 percent of these recommendations have been implemented. Primary recommendations included: Stronger Building Codes from the International Code Council (ICC)

Updated or new FEMA technical guidance:

Stronger Building Codes at the local level:

  • Contributed to adoption of additional flood resistant code provisions in New York City and the states of New Jersey and New York (MAT recommendations 40c, 44a, 45a, 45c, 46.

Stronger Standards and Technical Guidance for Partner Organizations:

Improvements in or Contributed to FEMA’s Disaster-Resistant Policies and Programs:

Last Updated: 
06/19/2018 - 15:57