Federal Emergency Management Agency’s first BRIC grant cycle recognizes several building code efforts
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is working to finalize the first mitigation grant cycle for the federal fiscal year 2020 under the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program. In its first year, BRIC, a successor to the Pre-disaster Mitigation Program, will provide $500 million in grants to states, tribes and territories through both competitive process and formula awards for planning and capability- and capacity building (C&CB).
FEMA identified “increase[ing] funding to applicants that facilitate the adoption and enforcement of the latest published editions of building codes” as one of the four priorities for the program, in part, due to recognitions that adoption and enforcement of hazard-resistant building codes is one of the most cost-effective ways to protect communities from disasters.
Incentivizing building code adoption and implementation was not only a priority for the agency in selecting mitigation projects through the program’s competitive process but also an eligible C&CB activity, which state, territorial and tribal governments could fund through formula funding. Preliminary award data FEMA posted shows approximately $2.25 million for 16 code projects representing sub-applicants from 11 states, four tribal communities and one U.S. territory. The awards will fund efforts to adopt, update and implement building codes. The awards were finalized in September.
Several awards represent investments in code official training and certification, and broader disaster assessment training through the International Code Council’s When Disaster Strikes Institute. Two awards will support building department accreditation, which the International Accreditation Service describes as, “[a] performance tool that helps departments proactively establish, and assess goals for public safety, customer service, budgeting, professional development and other related functions.”
Overall, these awards will help protect and improve building safety and resilience across several states, a territory and in individual communities ranging from several rural native Alaskan communities to large metropolitan areas like Houston, Texas. The federal funding will also invest in three code studies aiming to increase earthquake and flooding resilience in known high-risk areas.
While these 16 awards only represent nearly seven percent of the 2020 program year’s formula funding, they represent a meaningful shift in FEMA’s prioritization of code activities. Since the first Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) awards in 1989, only 80 building code projects have received funding, which represents less than half of one percent of all federal hazard mitigation awards. This year’s awards are particularly impressive as only 15 code projects have received HMGP awards in the last 10 years.
Codes are also important to the competition-based portion of the BRIC program, which funds brick-and-mortar mitigation projects such as hardening critical infrastructure. For the 2020 program, competitive applications were ranked on a cumulative 200-point system comprised of qualitative and technical evaluation criteria, with the latter providing two opportunities to earn points for codes. Twenty points were awarded for statewide adoption and enforcement of one of the two most recent editions (2015/2018) of the International Building Code (IBC) and the International Residential Code (IRC) and 15 points for where the ultimate awardee had a Building Code Effectiveness Grading Schedule rating between one and five. In an August 11 webinar, FEMA BRIC Section Chief Camille Crain reported that all 22 competition awards for the 2020 program cycle earned full points for adopting either the 2015 or 2018 IBC and IRC.
The 2021 BRIC cycle is underway with the Notice of Funding Opportunity now available. FEMA will begin accepting applications on Sept. 30, 2021, though many states are already accepting pre-applications. The Code Council has and will continue to post information on the process here.