If a disaster struck in Maryland, would you be willing to help?

If a disaster struck in our state, would you be willing to help?

Floods, tornados and hurricanes are simply a reality of life in Maryland yet the aftermath can be devastating and heart wrenching. One of the biggest challenges is how easily the emergency response teams can become overwhelmed. Although there are many excellent emergency first responder programs statewide, one of the vulnerabilities is the “second responders” or those that come in to help assess the damage. The website of the International Code Council (ICC) describes the problem well, “All too often after a disaster, an affected community is left on its own to struggle with assessing its damage and determining whether structures can be re-inhabited. When assessments are not conducted quickly, a community’s residents will reoccupy potentially unsafe structures”. I learned of this recently when I attended a post-disaster Safety-Assessment Program (SAP) training last month. I was struck that as building professionals, we already generally possess the knowledge to assess post-disaster buildings, so our learning curve going into such a situation would be low. The training simply taught us what we would need to know about procedures and the assessment goals of the local, state, and/or federal agencies involved. The AIA has adopted the California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) program, Safety Assessment Program (SAP) to provide us a direct way to help in the aftermath of a disaster in the state of Maryland or beyond. This is a program strongly advocated for by our own Carl Elefante, currently serving as President of The AIA. AIA Maryland is ramping up our post-disaster response program and we have formed the Maryland Statewide Disaster Assistance Committee.

THIS IS A CALL TO ACTION. Hurricane season starts this week with a season predicted to have an above average number of storms, and those storms are expected to carry high rainfall. We need volunteers, first to help us get organized and then to get enough of us officially trained so that when the next disaster comes, we will have teams ready to make a difference. We need to hear from all corners of the state. We are launching this program as rapidly as we can so stay tuned as more information becomes available.

In the next couple of weeks, we will be meeting with emergency agencies at the city, county and state levels to learn more directly what they need. Part of the urgency is that we need to get the word out that The AIA is here to help as no other organization can. We are particularly interested in those of you that may be connected to local building inspectors and/or fire, rescue, and police communities.

The process that allows us to get out into the field simply involves a one-day training to become a certified building evaluator. Architects will also earn 6.5 CEU’s in the process. If you are attending the Conference on Architecture – A’18 in New York, this training is being offered on Wednesday, June 20th. There are other sessions on disasters scheduled for Thursday and Saturday. You can meet members of the Disaster Assistance Committee on Thursday in the AIA booth, 2-4pm (booth 1739 in the Javits Center) or, get a SAP Sneak Peak on Friday, 12:30-1pm if you stop by the AIA booth.

Ultimately, this is about giving back. We all got into this profession in no small way to make a difference in the world around us. We now will have a chance to help others in a very immediate and direct way. The name of The AIA will perhaps have a somewhat different meaning to the communities we will have a privilege to serve. Please let us hear from you as soon as possible if you are at all interested.

Below are some links to educate yourself more on this emerging initiative.

The Safety Assessment Program – AIA

Recovery Safety Assessment Program – California

When Disaster Strikes | ICC