David Paulinson, former head of FEMA, writes in yesterday's Washington Post:
"To be exact, $30.06 billion of the $47.9 billion set aside for relief [efforts for Hurricane Sandy, from 2012] remains in the coffers of two federal agencies whose primary missions have nothing to do with responding to disasters — the Transportation Department and Department of Housing and Urban Development. This fact alone should cause all of us to stop and question our current approach to disaster recovery."
During my interview last week on The Survival Podcast, host Jack Spirko asked me what role I believed the government can play in disaster mitigation and recovery. I listed a number of the public policy initiatives outlined in Pivot Points, such as better building codes, disaster savings accounts and tax incentives for preparedness purchases.
Paulison outlines a part of his recommended plan in the article:
"In addition to enhancing FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program, our investment strategy creates incentives for states to adopt and enforce strong statewide building codes, provides tax credits for builders and homeowners who use cutting-edge techniques when constructing homes, and establishes a FEMA pilot program that would provide grants to states and localities to help defray enforcement costs for qualified building codes. Taken as a whole, these reforms would protect Americans in the place they should feel safest — their homes — while saving tax dollars."
No doubt some policymakers will be reluctant to implement such a program, especially those who believe in limited government and reduced burdens on taxpayers. How can those in the resiliency movement address such concerns?
I wrote in Pivot Points:
"If we accept the notion that people will expect the government to provide disaster relief as a political reality, then what is the libertarian response to that? Some might argue that the best approach, assuming that political reality is true, is to take steps to ensure that those who benefit the most from disaster aid undertake mitigation efforts to help reduce the need for tax dollars going to them after a disaster. Put another way, homeowners need to have more skin in the game if they expect the government to provide them with federal aid after a disaster. Enhanced building codes are one way we can make that a reality."
At the end of the day, I'm not convinced that the tax dollar savings will be a sufficient incentive for some policymakers. We may need to change our approach a bit, towards issues of life safety and personal responsibility. As I like to say, "good building codes keep my roof out of your living room after a storm."
Here's where I tell you what I think about things I think about.