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Thu January 23 2020

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Atkins reports on response of US buildings to hurricanes

7 Jan The USA’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has published an Atkins-authored report on the performance of residential, commercial and government buildings in areas affected by the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season.

The report is seen as a critical tool for communities seeking to ‘build back stronger’ after disasters of national significance and reduce their vulnerability to the impacts of future storms.

In 2017 FEMA deployed more than 75 subject matter experts (SMEs) formed into mitigation assessment teams (MATs) to Texas, the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Florida after hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

Atkins, through its STARR II joint venture, sent SMEs to participate in the MATs and conduct forensic engineering evaluations of building performance, document observations, draw conclusions and provide recommendations to improve building safety and resilience.

 The FEMA P-2054 report summarizes the observations, conclusions and recommendations from the four MAT reports developed for the 2017 hurricane season.

“The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was extremely active, producing 17 named storms, including six major hurricanes,” said Atkins senior engineer Diana Castro. “We believe the contents of this report will improve building safety and resiliency through informed design and construction guidance and best practices.”

Higher priority recommendations in the report include:

  • Review and update building codes, standards and regulations with the latest model building codes and referenced standards. Code enforcement staff should be trained adequately, and inspectors should ensure construction follows applicable codes and standards.
  • Elevate new and substantially damaged/substantially improved buildings above the National Flood Insurance Program elevation requirements to protect them from flooding. Facility managers should routinely re-evaluate dry floodproofing designs and plans after deployment and instill a culture of preparedness.
  • Building owners and facility managers should ensure roof-mounted equipment is mounted adequately and protect glazed openings to prevent wind-related damage. Topographic effects of wind speed-up should also be factored into building design.

The recommendations are intended to assist states, communities, facility managers, contractors, building owners, local officials and individuals in the reconstruction process, as well as help reduce future damage and impacts from flood and wind events such as those that occurred during the 2017 hurricane season.

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