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Disaster Response

About the Program

The Disaster Assistance Program supports a nation-wide network of architects who help communities prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters.

In the face of rising costs for disaster and uncertain weather patterns, architects can help communities mitigate damage, improve performance, and lead a movement in resilient design.

Resources for Responders

AIA Disaster Assistance and Resilience Program

The AIA, with guidance from members on the AIA Disaster Assistance Committee, is committed to provide advocacy, education, and training for architects to engage in disaster response. Since 1972, the AIA has encouraged and trained members to provide voluntary damage assessments for homes and small businesses following disaster. This invaluable service protects the public, collects data, and speeds recovery.

We also recognize that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. FEMA and the National Institute of Building Sciences have reported that every $1 spent on mitigation saves at least $4 on response and recovery and architects are uniquely qualified to participate in all phases of emergency management, which includes preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery. The design thinking and problem solving skills of architects are critical to achieving more resilient built environment.

A volunteer helps clean up Jean McAdams' mobile home after it was overturned by a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images.
Candice Lopez (L) and Stephanie Davis help clean debris from Thelma Cox's mobile home after it was destroyed by a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images.
Volunteers help clean out Jean McAdams' mobile home after it was overturned by a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images.
A home sits damaged after a tornado moved through the area May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images
A piece of corrugated tin is draped over a power line after a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images.
Lonnie Langston stands near his garage that was swept off the concrete pad next to his house by a tornado May 20, 2013 near Shawnee, Oklahoma. Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images.



Thank you for your statement and kind words in regards to the Moore, Oklahoma tornado disaster.

This has special importance to me because Moore, Oklahoma is my hometown. I have two family members that live 4 miles apart and the tornado went in between them. So I am fortunate that my immediate family is unharmed. However my hometown community will need continuing support for the months and years to come. Many areas in the affected neighborhoods are low income, which makes it a tremendous struggle to gain leverage to rebuild. This is where support from groups like AIA is crucial. I am returning home tomorrow to visit the devastation. I suspect it will be similar to the 1999 tornado that I lived thru years back, although seeing such devastation is never easier the second time around.

Justin A. Drabek, AIA


Dear Jeff,

Greetings and I hope this finds you well. I am writing to you to let you know how we are following with great empathy the terrible plight of the residents of the east coast of the USA in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, particularly Rhode Island.

The instant availability of news and images makes us all truly closer but also humbler. While there are plenty of man-made disasters and distress in the world, our Gaia, our Mother Earth, also occasionally shrugs its shoulders as if to remind us of our human fragility and its ultimate power over us. Therefore unwillingly, in terms of my Presidency I have been reminded of her might through the volcanic activity, earthquakes, tsunami, floods and this time hurricane.

Whilst I am aware that there is not much in practical terms to be done on this end to help, we felt it important to convey our sincere sympathy at the destruction and tragic losses incurred.

No doubt that the reconstruction that lies ahead will be a daunting task, but I am sure the communities concerned will face this with customary fortitude, undeterred by the certain length of time before they can be fully back on their feet.

Best wishes,
Selma Harrington
President, Architects' Council of Europe


Dear Fellow Staten Islanders,

It is the fervent hope and trust of The Staten Island Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) that you are all safe and well. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone.

Like most New Yorkers, AIA members have been responding to the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy by assisting City agencies with rapid assessment of the storm damage. We at the AIA have seen firsthand the physical results of this destructive weather on Staten Island and beyond. In the interest of allowing all of us in the Staten Island community to continue to focus resources and attention to relief and recovery efforts, the Spaghetti Marshmallow Building Competition has been postponed until Spring 2013. More specific details will be provided in the near future. Meanwhile, AIA Staten Island has redirected all physical and monetary resources associated with the Spaghetti-Marshmallow contest to the disaster relief effort.

We have your contact information and will keep you updated on the contest developments. We encourage you to continue to develop and refine your projects and invite everyone to post your work on the Facebook page. Check our website for details and information.

If you had already picked up your food for donations, St. Edwards food pantry is currently accepting donations, call 718-984-1625 to make arrangements.

On behalf of the AIA, I wish all Staten Islanders good fortune through this hardship as we work together to re-build Staten Island.

Jeffrey Geary, AIA
Vice-President/President Elect, AIA Staten Island


Dear Members of AIA-NJ,

As President of The New Jersey Society of Architects a Chapter and Region of the American Institute of Architects, AIA-NJ, I would like to offer assistance to our members who have had losses due to the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. In the past AIA-NJ has helped support victims of Hurricane Katrina, and other natural disasters. Now is the time for us to help our own neighbors and colleagues.

We understand during this challenging time that some members may not be able to receive this message because of loss of their office or home but we hope they may still be connected on their personal devices. If you know of any member architects who have been affected, kindly reach out and encourage them to contact Kelly Biddle at our AIANJ offices at 609-393-5690.

If you are up and running and can offer assistance or some space for one of our members to use during the recovery period kindly call in to let us know. Kelly at the AIA-NJ offices will be keeping a list to connect with those in need. If you are on Facebook with fellow architects help us spread the word.

Personally my home is without electric, and my office just got phone and email back today. My Blackberry has become my closest asset. I have heard this from many architects I have talked with this week. This is the time for NJ architects to come together to support and help our fellow members.

Very truly yours,
Laurence E. Parisi, AIA
President, AIA-NJ


Dear President,

The terrible Hurricane that recently hit the east coast of the U.S. was another example that natural disasters are uncontrollable. There is no way to stop their happening; however, the immediate humanitarian mobilisation that followed this catastrophe is the proof that solidarity is our strength.

The community of architects is deeply moved by the human catastrophe and the destruction that has hit your country. For this reason, we express to you our most sincere sympathy on behalf of the entire International Union of Architects.

We know that national solidarity in your country is exemplary. Nonetheless, if there is any specific assistance that the UIA may provide, please do not hesitate to inform us directly of that need, so that the UIA officials can take the necessary measures and disseminate the information to all the national member sections.

With my very best regards,
Albert Dubler
President, UIA


Dear Mr. Jeff Potter, FAIA, President of AIA,

I understand a big hurricane hit the west coast and caused serious damage. I send an expression of sympathy to all affected people.

We, JIA members and Japanese professionals of architecture, will do anything for the affected areas.

Yoshihiko Sano
International associate AIA,
Chair, International Committee of JIA (from November 15th, 2012) President, Yasui Architects & Engineers, Inc.


Dear Jeff,

Hurricane Sandy has obviously taken its toll on the Eastern sea board of the USA. Yet another disaster to add to 2012. If there is anything that I can do personally please let me know. I am sure that UIA member sections and their individual members will help if they can. I hope that the clean up can happen quickly and that electricity and water are back on everywhere very soon. You take care.

Best wishes and kindest regards,
Louise Cox AM
UIA Immediate Past President
Chair of the Habitat Professionals Forum and President of Docomomo Australia

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