Updates from AIA's Disaster Assistance Program:

This page will be updated as conditions change - Last updated November 29, 2021

AIA and its architects, often serving as volunteers, assist communities following disasters. Updates regarding AIA’s activities in disaster areas, resources and volunteer opportunities are provided below.

Architects supporting community COVID-19 response

The president has declared a national emergency due to COVID-19 and placed FEMA in command.  AIA members who are SAP trained may recall and rely upon the chain of command in the National Response Framework through to your state.

To ensure AIA members are informed and prepared to follow the incident command system during this declared state of emergency, AIA gathered the following tips and resources. For resources on how to continue your business operations during the pandemic, please refer to the COVID-19 resources for architects page and Reopening America: Strategies for safer buildings page.


  • Do your research.  What are your emergency alerts and reliable news outlets telling you about the challenges in your communities?  Utilize these situation reports to anticipate short and long-term impacts. Architects are great at visualizing that which does not exist.
  • Work with your state component staff to identify the best representative(s) for local or state government task forces.   The AIA Disaster Assistance Handbook offers both a framework for responding and tangible guidance that can certainly be applied to this very different type of disaster.  See the cheat sheet here on Getting Involved With Disaster Assistance.  
  • Power in numbers!  Leverage the AIA committees and member expertise in your local components to tackle some of the bigger community issues that arise.  
  • When evaluating requests for assistance, remember that every [public] building has an architect.  Does the architect need help?  Do you have the requisite skills and capacity to provide that help?  Is it best to refer the request elsewhere?
  • Vet requests for assistance:  Are current resources exhausted to be able to meet the need?  If resources are still needed, confirm with the architect [of the building or project], as applicable.  Is this an appropriate volunteer project?  See guidelines and free resources on pro bono projects here.
  • Before embarking on any volunteer activities, determine your liability exposure.  Does your state have a Good Samaritan Law?  If so, please consult with local counsel to see if it applies to the current disaster.  Remember, you must be deputized and deployed by an authority having jurisdiction.  If your state does not provide liability coverage in this situation, be sure to address this.

What else can I do?

  • For volunteers:  Explore opportunities to apply your education, skills, equipment and ideas to other creative uses. Connect with your favorite charities and non-profits that may be found in your state chapter of the National Volunteers Organization Active in Disaster. Ask what their needs are, see how architects can help.  Alternatively, take off your architect hat and contribute to your communities as a neighbor and citizen.
  • Got quiet time?  Mentor an emerging professional on how to address hazard risk and design for resilience or stock up on your 18 hours of AIA learning units and prepare yourself to be a better citizen and architect in the next disaster.  Earn  your resilience certificate on AIAU.
  • Utilize this experience as a learning experience.  Work with your AIA Knowledge Communities to share what you’re learning, ask questions, document key experiences so we may work together on improving our practices to prevent a future pandemic from disabling the country. ​


2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak

This research from University of Oregon’s Biology and the Built Environment Center and the CDC provides basic guidance for users and managers of the built environment to more effectively deal with pathogens in the buildings.

Read 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic: Built Environment Considerations to Reduce Transmission >

Aerosol and surface stability of SARS-CoV-2 as compared with SARS-CoV-1

An evaluation of the stability of SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV-1 in aerosols and on various surfaces and estimated their decay rates.

Read Aerosol and surface stability of SARS-CoV-2 as compared with SARS-CoV-1 >

Considerations for Large Building Water Quality

This paper provides guidance on building water quality due to low or no occupancy in buildings. This is of particular concern for buildings that were not completely decommissioned or have sat stagnant for long periods of time.

Read Considerations for Large Building Water Quality in Low Occupancy and Shutdown Buildings >

Public health guidance

CDC: Implementation of Mitigation Strategies

This document provides a framework for actions that local and state health departments can recommend in their community to prepare for and mitigate community transmission of COVID-19.  Major building types are put forward as mitigation examples: individuals at home, schools and childcare, assisted living, and workplaces. These mitigation are divided among three degrees of intensity: minimal, moderate and substantial.

Read the CDC: Implementation of Mitigation Strategies for Communities with Local COVID-19 Transmission >

CDC: Guidance for Business Response to COVID-19

The CDC provides interim guidance based on what is currently known about COVID-19. The guidance is particularly focused on workplaces in non-healthcare settings. The key sections in this document: Preparing workplaces for a COVID-19 outbreak, reducing transmission among employees, maintaining healthy business operations, and maintaining a healthy work environment.

Read the COVID-19 Guidance for Businesses and Employers >

WHO: Pandemic Influenza Risk and Impact Management 2018

This document provides the WHO’s most recent pandemic guidance and recommendations prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. Section 4.1.2 “Facilities” mentions developing facility-level plans, including floor plans for essential facilities. Other key principles in this document provide the basis for more detailed guidance from other specialist groups.

Read the checklist for pandemic influenza risk and impact management >

Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security: “Public Health Principles for a Phased Reopening During COVID-19: Guidance for Governors”

This paper provides guidance for the reopening of various building typologies and offers numerous matrices detailing modified occupancy loadings for a variety of building typologies and programming needs.

Read "Public Health Principles for a Phased Reopening During COVID-19: Guidance for Governors" >

Technical guidance:

Center for Active Design: 5 ways to optimize buildings for COVID-19 prevention

This guidance provides basic guidelines for re-occupation of buildings and general areas of concern for the built environment.

Read 5 ways to optimize buildings for COVID-19 prevention​ >AIHA: Recovering from COVID-19 Business Closures

This resource provides practical recommendations for preparing a closed building for re-occupancy, including mechanical and plumbing systems as well as cleaning and disinfecting surfaces.

Read Recovering from COVID-19 Business Closures >

OSHA 3990: Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 2020

While this seminal document creates no new legal obligations, its recommendations and informational content are intended to assist employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace.

Read Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 2020 >

ASHRAE: Guidance for Building Operations during COVID-19

This document provides specific HVAC-related recommendations for helping reduce the risk of COVID-19 within buildings, including fresh air intake and filter ratings.

Read Guidance for Building Operations during COVID-19 >

Climate change is heating up

Did you know that the American Institute of Architects’ Board of Directors declared climate change a national emergency in 2019?  We are galvanizing all architects to recognize the role buildings have in both mitigating and adapting to climate change as part of our commitment to the health, safety and welfare of the public.

Learn how to design for climate change  with these adaptation resources and join our AIA’s 2030 commitment for carbon neutrality of buildings.

Architects Respond to Disasters

Architects can use their building knowledge to help their communities both before and after a disaster. AIA's Disaster Assistance Program supports Components and equips architects with the knowledge and skills to mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from a disaster. Since 1972, the program has ensured that AIA, Chapters, and members are prepared to assist communities nationwide and internationally in leadership and volunteer roles. At the request of a state or local jurisdiction, our members are trained to serve as volunteers to perform rapid or building safety assessments in their communities following a disaster.  

Why is architects’ volunteerism so important to a city’s disaster recovery?

City staff, including building inspectors, undoubtedly have their hands full contending with the effects of a disaster potentially affecting large portions of their city’s population and geographic area, and therefore rely upon volunteer resources to expedite a safe return.

The AIA Safety Assessment Program (SAP) training provides the specialized knowledge and technical skills to architects, engineers and building inspectors needed to determine if a home or other building is safe and habitable

Not only do licensed architects protect the health, safety and welfare of the public, but AIA’s Code of Ethics asks members to provide emergency services in times of disaster as part of our commitment to the public.

Take a virtual walk alongside one of our volunteer teams in Rockport, Texas after Hurricane Harvey.  Learn more >

Find an AIA Safety Assessment and Disaster Assistance training on our calendar or sign up to be alerted when a training in your area.  

Want to learn more?

Design your next building to be both resilient and adaptable and start the AIA Resilience and Adaptation online certificate series today.

Join the national AIA Resilience Network

The AIA Resilience Network is a virtual member forum focusing on topics of hazard mitigation, disaster assistance, climate adaptation and resilience.  Network members share knowledge, news, research and events and based on your interest and expertise, AIA matches members with opportunities to participate in conferences or panel presentations. Resilience is a systems-based approach to addressing shocks and stresses, and it requires a variety of perspectives, skills and experience.

Join now >

Learn about the important role of architects in disasters

Want to prepare for the hazards in your own back yard and be ready to respond as a “citizen architect” to help your community recover from a hazard event?  Connect with your local or state AIA chapter to inquire about your state’s disaster assistance program. A directory of chapter committees can be found in the Appendix of the 3rd Edition of the AIA Disaster Assistance Handbook.  

Download the AIA Disaster Assistance Handbook >

Disaster Assistance Program

The AIA Disaster Assistance Program supports chapters and equips architects with the knowledge and skills to mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from a disaster. Since 1972, the program has ensured that AIA, Chapters, and members are prepared to assist communities nationwide and internationally in leadership and volunteer roles.

Register for a Safety Assessment Program training in your area >

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