Recovery Response: Architects’ Role in the Aftermath of Disaster
As superstorm Sandy continued to pound the East Coast and move its way well inland on Tuesday, Oct. 30, the nation awoke on Wednesday to scenes of its aftermath.
In New York, tunnels remain flooded and the subway system shuttered while in New Jersey fires raged in one area while sand enveloped another. The devastation can be seen further west in hard-hit West Virginia and even into my home town of Cleveland, where trees are down, streets are flooded, and tens of thousands are left without power.
Yesterday, Healthcare Design reported the specific toll Sandy took on hospitals, as NYU Langone Medical Center was forced to evacuate more than 200 patients when a backup generator failed as waters flooded the hospital, while others worked to provide care under less than ideal circumstances. (For more, read "Hospitals Evacuate in Wake of Sandy" and "State of Emergency: Designing Healthcare Buildings to Prepare for the Worst.")
As local, state, and federal officials work to assess and begin the rebuilding process, it’s important to remember who specifically will need to be involved in that process: architects, engineers, builders, and a variety of others who can measure to what extent a structure may be compromised and how to remedy that damage.
Your specific knowledge may lie in healthcare—and there’s likely some hospitals that will need assistance in coming days, weeks, or even months—but contributions can stretch far and wide in any community.
And the American Institute of Architects (AIA) is reminding the industry of that very thing. AIA President Jeff Potter, FAIA, said in a statement that the organization and its National Disaster Assistance Committee are working to assess damage from Sandy and formulate plans for recovery.
It’s an important role architects have in this process, and AIA also offers some tools to help navigate what very well may be uncharted waters through its AIA Disaster Response Program.
Among the resources is “The Architects Role in Disaster Response,” which highlights some best practices on where to start and what to do next.
While it simply may not be the case today, AIA first advises architects in areas most vulnerable to disasters to develop a response strategy in advance, adding that the most effective programs have been organized at the state level with additional local components, such as rosters of potential volunteers.
After a disaster strikes, AIA says architectural expertise must be provided as quickly as possible to assess the nature and extent of the damage. The response should be patterned on the general plan formulated in advance, making emergency changes when necessary.
Both short- and long-term activities must also be considered, because planning for long-term recovery will be just as important as getting through the next few days. And architects are in an ideal position to let authorities know what viable options might be.
I encourage you all to take a look around your community, check in at your local hospital, or simply touch base with the AIA. Your perspective is valuable and your knowledge critical in pulling together after so many communities were torn apart.