Disaster Assistance Update

From surge capacity preparedness to post-disaster assessment

Architects called to be there for their communities before and after disaster

Back in March of 2020 as the first wave of COVID-19 hit, the AIA PA Disaster Assistance/Relief Network reached out to the membership to build up a base of architects who have the interest and capacity to assist with identifying, evaluating, documenting, and retrofitting buildings and other facilities in anticipation of a surge in acute inpatient care. During this uncertain time, AIA Pennsylvania also proactively reached out to the Governor and key disaster relief stakeholders to offer architects’ expertise.

Last month, the AIA National Disaster Assistance Committee announced that FEMA has formally carved out new roles for architects to act as a resource during times of crisis. Now that architects are recognized and officially defined by the FEMA National Incident Management System (NIMS), their assistance can be requested anywhere in the country through EMAC (Emergency Management Assistance Compact).

The FEMA National Incident Management System (NIMS) creates shared vocabulary, systems, and processes that enable jurisdictions and organizations to act collaboratively when disasters strike. NIMS Resource typing definitions establish a common language and define a resource’s minimum capabilities for the mobilization of resources. For a community to be able to request assistance (resources) through the system, the resource must be listed in the FEMA NIMS Resource Typing Library. Architects can now officially assess the condition and fitness of damaged structures, known as a building safety assessment. Prior to the recent update to the Typing Library architects were not recognized as a resource that could be called on (requested) to assist with building assessments. AIA’s inclusion in the NIMS Resource Typing Library increases visibility, creates awareness of architects’ skills, and advances the profession as a useful asset in times of trouble.

The National NIMS resource types represent the minimum criteria recommended for the associated capability and therefore provide guidance on training requirements. Training requirements may vary by state, but according to NIMS, training for a post-disaster building safety evaluator is fulfilled by (1) Cal OES Safety Assessment Program (SAP), the baseline for AIA’s Safety Assessment Program (completion of the AIA program meets this standard) and (2) completion of select FEMA ICS courses listed below.

To supplement SAP training, it is recommended that volunteers take FEMA Incident Command System (ICS) courses to understand mission control protocol:
These must be completed online, individually, by each AIA disaster assistance volunteer. More information can be found on FEMA’s training website.