September is National Preparedness month. The theme: Disasters Happen. Prepare Now. Learn How. This month more than ever, it is important that we all take the time to go over our emergency plans and replenish our disaster kits. Officials across the country are also preparing, and efforts are underway to plan for disaster before it strikes.
In response to Hurricane Harvey and the devastation it caused in Texas, Texas Land Office Commissioner George P. Bush partnered with local, state, and federal officials to compile a report titled: "Hurricane Harvey: Texas at Risk." This report outlines 18 recommendations for improving disaster recovery and mitigation, and we found it had some really interesting ideas for changing the current state of recovery efforts. Below, we listed some recommendations that stood out to us. What are your thoughts? Leave a message in the comments below!
Recommendation #4-- Building Code System
This report recommends that Texas establish a Regional Building Code District (RBCD) with authority over the high-risk hurricane region of Southeast Texas. The RBCD would set a new standard to replace the current, inadequate building code system.
Recommendation #6-- Housing Buyback Programs
This recommendation especially caught our eye. Commissioner Bush proposes that a fund be established for the purpose of accelerating the housing buyback program for houses which have repeatedly flooded in the past. Homes purchased through this fund would be taken out of the housing market and instead used for green space. This fund would be used to buyback homes in the weeks immediately following a natural disaster, before private companies are able to purchase homes that have a repeat history of flooding. Commissioner Bush also recommends that landlords be required to report flood history to home buyers. Current Texas law does not mandate that landlords reveal whether a home has a history of flooding or is prone to flooding.
Recommendation #11-- Indefinite Quantity Contracts
Commissioner Bush suggest that the Texas General Land Office distribute indefinite quantity contracts (IQCs) before hurricane season, so that contracts are already established and in place for use the first week after a disaster. IQCs establish an indefinite quantity of supplies and services, but over a fixed period of time.
Recommendation #12-- "Notwithstanding Authority"
This report also proposes that states which are at a higher risk for disaster and have shown to be capable at disaster response in the past should be afforded "notwithstanding authority" from Congress for one year after a disaster. This designation would allow a state to waive many federal regulations, in turn leading to more efficient recovery efforts.
Recommendation #15-- FEMA, HUD, and SBA
Commissioner Bush advocates that the disaster response housing programs of FEMA, HUD, and SBA be combined to reduce competition between different agencies and speed recovery efforts.
Recommendation #17-- Aid Allocation
This report recommends that HUD change disaster relief funding allocation to include all low and moderate income people. Previously, disaster relief funding was mainly distributed to low-income areas, thereby excluding low-income families living in majority high-income communities.