Buildings and Equipment: Mastering One of the Most Complex Categories of Work



The simplest way to position your organization to respond to these inevitable questions is to be prepared prior to a disaster through a systematic and documented maintenance program, the performance of regular inventories, and regular photo documentation of the existence and condition of facilities, equipment and inventories. These best practices are easily built into existing routines and will prove valuable not only post-disaster, but also in the case of other types of losses such as insurance claims. Another best practice to consider is keeping a backup of these records in a safe, off-site location where they can be accessed in a timely manner even if key facilities themselves have been destroyed.

Just as your organization regularly reviews hazards and their potential impact as part of its planning process, it is useful to consider and become knowledgeable of the potential impact to facilities that may be caused by various types of disasters. For example, flooding can cause air, soil and water contamination; mold growth; and weakening of foundations. Earthquakes can cause — in addition to the obvious destruction — latent damage such as foundation fractures that may not be immediately apparent, but can lead to long-term shifts and instability in a facility’s substructure and, eventually, visible cracking and settling. Educating yourself and your team in advance about the less-obvious potential damages associated with different types of disasters can help to more efficiently identify and address these issues after the fact.

It is also helpful to establish, using your standard procurement process, pre- existing standby contracts with firms whose expertise can be called upon in the event of an emergency. This includes establishing a pool of architectural and engineering firms that can assist with assessing the true extent of damages and establishing accurate scopes of work as the basis for realistic cost estimates (the importance of this step will be discussed later in this article), as well as developing relationships with firms that provide damage restoration, document preservation, debris management, grant management, insurance adjusting, and construction project management services.


Codes and Standards

A standard project is intended to restore a facility exactly as it was the moment before the disaster event occurred (“as it was”). However, FEMA recognizes that the repair or replacement of a building frequently triggers codes and standards requirements that have been put in place since the building was originally...

“It’s an applicant’s responsibility to demonstrate that claimed damages were caused by the declared event rather than by a failure of maintenance or some other avoidable issue unrelated to the disaster.”