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Building Better Homes in the Face of Earthquakes, Hurricanes and Floods

Tuesday, January 19, 2010  
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The recent earthquake in Haiti brings into focus the importance of constructing homes and other low-rise buildings to withstand such catastrophic events. The Building Seismic Safety Council (BSSC) developed a guide for the U.S. Federal Emergency Agency (FEMA) that addresses earthquake damage mitigation for both new and existing homes. The publication, Homebuilders' Guide to Earthquake Resistant Design and Construction (FEMA Publication 232), is available for download.

Two of the guide's principal authors, Professor J. Daniel Dolan of the Washington State University – Pullman and Kelly Cobeen, Associate Principal at Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates in Emeryville, Calif., are mitigation experts. Both are active members of the BSSC's Code Resource Support Committee and have participated in development of several editions of the NEHRP (National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program) Recommended Seismic Provisions for New Buildings and Other Structures, including the most recent 2009 edition (FEMA Publication 750).

In late January, Dolan and Cobeen will join with FEMA staff member experts on hurricane and flood damage mitigation to present an educational session at the 2010 International Builders Show organized by the National Association of Home Builders. View the presentations:

Cobeen Presentation
Dolan Presentation
FEMA Staff Presentation

FEMA has a number of other mitigation resources available, including training courses that address seismic rehabilitation of dwellings.

Such resources include:

Earthquake Safety Guide for Homeowners
(FEMA P-530) – This booklet helps homeowners get a good start on strengthening their houses against earthquake damage. It describes common weaknesses that can result in houses being damaged by earthquakes and steps a homeowner can take to correct these weaknesses.Download FEMA P-530.

Seismic Rehabilitation Training for One-and Two-Family Wood-Frame Dwellings
(FEMA P-593 CD) – This training course focuses on identification and prioritization of vulnerabilities and guidance for rehabilitation design.

Seismic Retrofit Training for Building Contractors and Inspectors
(FEMA G225) – This FEMA training course offered by states focuses on the nuts and bolts of installing seismic rehabilitation work. G-225 is recommended as a follow-up to P-593 for persons who will be installing or inspecting seismic rehabilitation work.

For additional resources, visit the FEMA website.

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