Washington, D.C. – The Research and Technology Subcommittees today held a hearing to examine the current role of research and development (R&D) in mitigating the damage from windstorms across the nation. Witnesses discussed how best to transfer the results of research into practice for stakeholders, including building code developers, builders and property owners.

Research Subcommittee Chairman Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.): “Every year the federal government funds not only disaster relief but also emergency supplemental appropriations when states are hit particularly hard by unexpected disasters.  I believe that we need to be more responsible about planning how to deal with natural disasters and minimize the need for disaster supplemental funding. 

“Federal agencies currently conduct research and development to help inform the resilience of buildings and communities, but it is not clear how each agency is conducting unique work that is not duplicated by another agency.  I believe that a coordination mechanism would help shed light into what is going on at the federal level, and how it can be strengthened to ensure better coordination.”

The hearing reviewed the activities of the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program (NWIRP), a multi-agency program between the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The hearing also reviewed The National Windstorm Impact Reduction Act Reauthorization of 2013 [H.R. 1786], a bill to re-authorize NWIRP sponsored by Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas).

Rep. Neugebauer: “When a family loses their home in a windstorm, they don’t just have to rebuild their house—they have to rebuild their lives.  My bill ensures smart and efficient use of taxpayer dollars for wind engineering research. That improves our disaster resilience and reduces overall recovery costs. I’m grateful to Chairman Bucshon for examining this important subject.”

Every year, there are an average of around 80 deaths and 1,500 injuries from tornadoes in the U.S.  2011 was an especially bad year, with 551 fatalities caused by tornadoes alone. NWIRP was first created in 2004 to help improve building codes, voluntary standards and construction practices for buildings and homes. It also supports basic research to better understand windstorms, atmospheric science research and data collection and the development of risk assessment tools and mitigation techniques. Since 2008 when the original authorization expired, NIST, NSF, NOAA and FEMA have conducted related activities, but without direction from Congress regarding what specific research it should conduct.

The following witnesses testified before the subcommittees:
Dr. Ernst Kiesling, Research Faculty, National Wind Institute, Texas Tech University
Ms. Debra Ballen, General Counsel and Senior Vice President, Public Policy, Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety
Dr. David Prevatt, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil and Coastal Engineering, University of Florida