Natural Disaster Preparedness Legislation

With the occurrence of natural disasters on the rise, municipalities everywhere are experiencing a greater need for emergency preparedness and recovery planning. Legislating to put procedures, duties, and response efforts at the hands of officials and residents is a vital part of being ready when crises happen.

It’s not your imagination. There are more natural disasters occurring.

A natural disaster is considered “a sudden and terrible event in nature (such as a hurricane, tornado, or flood) that usually results in serious damage and many deaths.” The list of such catastrophic events includes, but is not limited to, extreme temperatures, droughts, cyclones, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, snow and ice storms, and wildfires.

According to a 2021 World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report, natural disasters have increased 5-fold over a 50 year span. “From 1970 to 2019, weather, climate and water hazards accounted for 50% of all disasters, 45% of all reported deaths and 74% of all reported economic losses.” And the National Centers for Environmental Information states that since 1980, the United States has sustained over 350 weather and climate disasters.

View sample natural disaster preparedness legislation >

At what cost?

It’s estimated that the economic costs of these storms to state and local governments are in the hundreds of billions. These costs involve:

  • physical damage to and material assets in residential, commercial, and municipal buildings
  • time element losses such as business interruption or loss of living quarters
  • damage to vehicles and boats
  • public assets including roads, bridges, levees
  • electrical infrastructure and offshore energy platforms
  • agricultural assets including crops, livestock, and commercial timber
  • wildfire suppression costs

The good news is the loss of life has decreased significantly. This can be attributed to several factors such as improved early warnings, better communication before, during, and after the events, stronger building standards, and pre-disaster plans being put in place.

Preparing legislatively

Taking a proactive approach to disaster preparedness can save time, money – and most importantly, lives. From updating building standards and implementing an emergency preparedness plan to working with neighboring municipalities regarding shared emergency services, a community’s safety and resilience depends on how its leaders prepare for the inevitable and varying destructive events it will face.

Plan for the worst and build for the future

Emergency preparedness plans are critical to the well-being of a municipality. The point is to ensure response to a disaster is immediate, organized, and effective for everyone impacted. A well-written plan covers everything from the line of succession to location of an operations center, declaration of disaster, duties of specific officials, damage assessment requirements, communication guidelines, and relief measures.

But prior to an emergency, reviewing the building and environmental standards currently in place is an important step toward safeguarding that damage to structures and infrastructure is kept to a minimum. Doing this can not only reduce repair and replacement costs after the event, but also limit injuries and deaths. Building safety is always vital to the well-being of your citizens, but especially in times of disaster.

Establishing relationships with neighboring communities can make response and recovery easier as well. Developing “mutual aid” agreements will help provide additional personnel, supplies, equipment, and other types of support in a timelier fashion. For instance, Building Departments typically aren’t able to maintain sufficient personnel levels to handle the influx of post-disaster inspections, permitting and enforcement tasks. Entering into mutual aid agreements with their state or surrounding municipalities, can make it possible for those departments to augment their personnel in times of need.

Useful examples of natural disaster preparedness legislation from the eCode360® Library

If your community is interested in preparing for the harmful impacts of natural disasters by legislating or updating ordinances, here are some useful examples that can be found in our eCode360 Library:

Updating your municipal code is vitally important

Submit your code updates as soon as possible and ensure constituents and local government officials are always referencing and working with the most up-to-date resources. Make it part of your Board meeting close-out process to send your adopted legislative changes to General Code when everything from that meeting is already right at hand.

General Code clients can easily send legislation to [email protected] (If you’re located in Texas, please submit your legislation to [email protected]) For tips that will allow us to process your code updates most efficiently, click here.

Questions about updating your code?

Our Client Care team is available to explain the options and benefits of scheduled code updates or any other code-related questions you might have.


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