Congress Investigates the Impacts of Windstorms

Originally published by: ASCEJune 5, 2013

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Dr. David Prevatt, Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE, testified this week on behalf of ASCE before a joint hearing of the Research and Technology Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.  The hearing was titled “Federal Efforts to Reduce the Impacts of Windstorms” and focused on the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma and H.R. 1786, “The National Windstorm Impact Reduction Act of 2013.”  Also testifying was Ernest W. Kiesling, Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE, on behalf of Texas Tech University and the National Storm Shelter Association; and Debra Ballen on behalf of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS).

The hearing, prompted by the tragedy in Oklahoma, was called to review 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 program was created in 2004, but has never received funding. 

In his opening statement at the hearing, Rep. Neugebauer (R-TX) quoted the National Science and Technology Council, which has stated that America’s primary focus on disaster response is “an impractical and inefficient strategy for dealing with these ongoing threats. Instead, communities must break the cycle of destruction and recovery by enhancing their disaster resilience.”

In his testimony, Dr. Prevatt noted that windstorms are possibly the only natural disasters whose impact on humans could be mostly resolved by proper research.  A well-funded, coordinated effort could expect to see positive results in 5-10 years.  Dr. Kiesling added that “investments in weather forecasting have produced good return on investment and saved many lives.  Similar investments need to be made in other program areas …. Knowing more would help designers and planners increase safety and reduce damage.”  Ms. Ballen voiced the agreement of the insurance industry on the need for more research. 

All testimony and the opening statements of members of the Committee, as well as a full webcast of the hearing are available online.

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