Following Hurricane Ian, Florida must remodel the way we rebuild, says former emergency-management chief

“The thing I know is building it back the way that it was will just result in the next disaster."

click to enlarge Following Hurricane Ian, Florida must remodel the way we rebuild, says former emergency-management chief
Photo by Dave Decker
As Florida looks to rebuild along the coast and in other areas hit by Hurricane Ian, a former state and national emergency-management chief said it needs a more advanced mindset.

“The thing I know is building it back the way that it was will just result in the next disaster,” Craig Fugate, now chief resilience officer for One Concern, a California-based resilience company, said Monday on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.”

Fugate was director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management under former Gov. Jeb Bush and administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency under former President Barack Obama.

After Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast U.S. in 2012, Fugate said some communities decided to buy out properties that were along the waterfront, creating buffers that were elevated and used as parks, while also increasing building codes for construction behind the buffers.

“It means looking at how you take advantage of both natural, defensive types of spaces, and then the construction that allows the storms to come in and come out,” Fugate said. “It will cause damages but not as catastrophic as we’re seeing from these images (of Ian).”

During an appearance Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., said “these places are places where people want to live” and stressed the need to improve building codes.

“After (Hurricane) Andrew in 1992, the state completely changed its building codes, which dramatically reduced the risk of damage,” said Scott, who was elected to the Senate in 2018 after two terms as governor. “While I was governor, we improved our building codes. And I think after this, we're going to learn that we're going to, you know, have to continue to improve our building codes.”

Also on “Face the Nation,” current Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell said people need to understand the risks as they start to consider next steps.

“Florida has done an amazing job of putting in place stricter and stronger building codes to make sure that as we rebuild, we rebuild more resilient,” Criswell said. “That's the key. We need to make sure that we have strong building codes because we have risks all over. We’ve seen damage inland in the state, and we need to have building codes that can make sure that our properties can withstand the impacts that we're seeing from these severe weather events.”

President Joe Biden took an aerial tour Wednesday to see the damage from Ian. After the tour, he said that with the strength of Ian, along with fires and droughts in the western U.S., “one thing this has finally ended is a discussion about whether or not there's climate change. We should do something about it.”
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