Opening remarks, as prepared, of Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Ranking Member Daniel Webster (R-FL) from today’s hearing entitled, “Building Smarter: The Benefits of Investing in Resilience and Mitigation”:
Thank you, Chair Titus for holding this hearing today. I want to thank the witnesses, including Mr. Fowke from Florida representing the National Association of Home Builders.
I am pleased to serve as the Ranking Member of this subcommittee, and I hope to work closely with Chair Titus on issues critical to this subcommittee, including resiliency and mitigation.
Disaster costs have increased significantly over the years. In 2015, through work done by this committee, we learned that just 25% of all disasters accounted for more than 92% of disaster costs. While disaster declarations have increased, these numbers show it is a small number of large disasters that are driving disaster costs.
Ultimately, the real solution to lowering disaster costs is upfront investment in mitigation. We know mitigation saves lives and reduces property damage and disaster costs. Study after study demonstrates that for every $1 invested in mitigation $4 to $11 are saved.
We have seen the benefits of mitigation firsthand in Florida. After the devastating 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, Florida made specific policy and behavior changes to improve our disaster preparedness. The cornerstone of these changes was mitigation through resilient construction techniques and improved communication and coordination between state and local agencies.
Florida worked with the insurance industry, homebuilders, and other stakeholders on a regional-based approach, recognizing that a one-size-fits-all approach wouldn’t work, but that leveraging incentive programs and other avenues to help manage cost to consumers would. These investments in mitigation help to protect Florida communities against hurricanes, flooding, and other hazards.
In 2018, we enacted significant reforms, including the Disaster Recovery Reform Act, that modernized FEMA’s predisaster mitigation program and provided an ongoing funding mechanism. But just as critical as funding is the investment in proven mitigation measures appropriate for the specific hazards in a given area. Whether it’s hurricanes, floods, or wildfires, ensuring the investments make sense and are cost-beneficial is important to ensuring effectiveness.
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