The season for hurricanes and wildfires has arrived with the arrival of summer. California experienced huge fires already in May due to the drought and high temperatures, and there are still many long, hot months left. Above-average storm activity is anticipated, which would mark the eighth consecutive season, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It is also obvious that these are not one-off incidents. A third of Americans claim they have experienced extreme weather in the previous two years alone.
It can seem like a big task to take on given the extremely high personal and economic consequences resulting from these catastrophes. Nevertheless, there is something that decision-makers at all levels of government can do right away to make our communities safer, more robust, and better equipped for extreme weather: make sure that they employ the most recent consensus construction rules and standards.
How much does it matter if roofs can withstand hurricane-force winds or if dwellings have vents that keep embers from entering during a wildfire? Adoption of building codes results in savings that are 11 times greater per dollar spent. Building codes have significantly increased society’s resilience to disasters while only marginally increasing construction costs in comparison to 1990 norms, according to the National Institute of Building Sciences. Communities that make use of the most recent code editions reap the biggest benefits.
Recognizing these advantages, the Biden-Harris administration recently unveiled the National Initiative to Advance Building Codes, which will assist all levels of government in implementing the most recent standards, enabling communities to be more resilient to hurricanes, and flooding, wildfires, and other extreme weather events. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) unveiled its Building Codes Strategy in March with comparable objectives.
For our communities, these initiatives are essential. The newest codes are implemented in just roughly one-third of counties, cities, and towns. The cost of avoiding damage from disasters like floods, wind, and earthquakes is saving those who have adopted current building standards $1.6 billion years. It is estimated that these communities will together save $132 billion by the year 2040; these savings will rise even more if other jurisdictions adopt contemporary standards.
Importantly, the White House’s building codes initiative emphasizes the need for independent nonprofits like the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and others to carry out the highly technical, time-consuming, and resource-intensive process of developing and updating the standards that increase resilience to environmental hazards. The relevance of this standards creation system has been regularly reaffirmed by Congress and prior administrations over the course of its 125-year history, demonstrating its effectiveness and efficiency.
But the System Itself Is Under Attack.
Laws or regulations may occasionally make reference to independently produced standards, including those we develop. For instance, all 50 states have integrated into whole or in part the National Electrical Code of the NFPA, which is widely regarded as the gold standard for safe electrical design, installation, and inspection. Unfortunately, a noisy minority of special interests falsely claim that this step, which clearly benefits the public, invalidates the copyright for the entire standard.
The fact that standards development organizations are self-funded nonprofits is absent from these detractors’ false arguments. Without assistance or funding from industry or the government, we carry out the expensive process of creating and revising standards on our own dime.
We then recuperate our costs by publishing, selling, and licensing standards to people who use them in the course of their work, which is a frequent way copyright owners try to pay for new and updated editions. Without funding from the government or business, which could influence the standards’ content, we are able to continue our operations thanks to this money. We can remain independent and prioritize safety thanks to copyright protection.
The special interests want to completely destroy the current system for developing standards, even though its worth is undeniable. Alternatives are neither as effective nor efficient. Any other strategy would mean higher costs for taxpayers or more industry sway, with standards being updated less regularly or, worst yet, never produced at all.
To save the lives and property of millions of Americans, we all agree that it is essential to update our construction codes. Government must continue to have access to robust, independently created standards, as it has for many years, in order to be able to achieve that. By clearly stating that the parts of their copyright protection are not destroyed by the incorporation of health, safety, and security regulations, this system can be protected.
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