FEMA and the Uniform Codes: The Real Story

Do your town’s building codes impact Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) support after a disaster? The answer is no, but that didn’t stop at least one model code body from attempting to spread other disinformation about the Uniform Codes. Here is the real story about FEMA and the Uniform Codes.

What Does the FEMA “Disaster Risk Reduction Minimum Codes and Standards” Document Say?

In 2019, FEMA issued an interim guidance document known as the “Disaster Risk Reduction Minimum Codes and Standards.”

This document explains that after a disaster, buildings that are rebuilt using FEMA funds must adhere to the latest nationally recognized voluntary consensus-based building codes and standards.

In an appendix, the document provides examples of building codes and standards appropriate for reconstruction applications ranging from buildings, and electric power to roads and bridges.

What this document DOES NOT do is mandate the use of any particular building code or standard. The examples are expressly not exhaustive but do clarify that consensus codes such as the Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC) and Uniform Mechanical Code (UMC) may be used.

What Jurisdictions Have Adopted The Uniform Plumbing Code and Received FEMA Funding?

TEXAS

Houston and other coastal municipalities in the State adopt the UPC and Texas received $2.3 billion in FEMA dollars after Hurricane Harvey.

IOWA

Adopts the UPC statewide and received $44.3 million in FEMA funding following the 2020 Derecho summer storm

WISCONSIN

Adopts its own state-authored plumbing code which is neither the UPC or IPC and was awarded $4.4 million in FEMA funds following the severe winter storms and flooding in 2020.

CALIFORNIA

Adoption of UPC has not stopped FEMA dollars flowing into the state following wildfires and other natural disasters in recent years. The State received $12.5 million in FEMA funding for the 2021 wildfires and $25.9 million for severe winter storms, flooding, landslides, and mudslides in 2019.

NEW JERSEY

Adopts its own state plumbing code (National Standard Plumbing Code) and received $5.5 million for damage related to severe winter snowstorms in 2021. The State also received $2 billion in FEMA dollars after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

IN ADDITION:

These states that adopt the Uniform Plumbing Code have also received FEMA funding: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, and Washington.

The Bottom Line: The Uniform Codes Help Communities Build Plumbing Resiliency

The UPC and UMC incorporate the latest hazard-resistant criteria critical to improving the resiliency of communities across the United States. It is a trusted tool in disaster mitigation and protecting public health and safety.

Furthermore, the Uniform Codes clearly meet the requirements set forth in the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. The UPC and UMC are the country’s only plumbing and mechanical codes developed using ANSI-accredited consensus development procedure.

The Uniform Codes lead the way in plumbing resiliency innovation, containing important hazard-resistant provisions related to drought, earthquakes, fires, floods, storm surges, and wind while establishing industry-accepted minimum criteria for the construction of residential and commercial structures.

Nearly 100 million Americans live in jurisdictions where the Uniform Codes are adopted. When disasters hit, they enjoy the same access to federal relief as those living in areas that adopt other plumbing codes.