Crossing the Red Tape: New York Architects Complete Rapid Evaluation Training

When disaster strikes, red tape can prevent progress. Sometimes professionals who would also like to volunteer are discouraged from helping when they are needed most, either because of the lack of a state-level Good Samaritan law or comprehensive post-disaster training. This, however, is changing. The AIA Disaster Assistance Program is helping to revise policy, and in turn has created a more efficient and effective recovery system. The mission: to enable architects to volunteer alongside management officials and provide opportunities to help in disaster-stricken areas.

With the generous support of AIA National, AIA New York hosted a Safety Assessment Program through the California Emergency Management Agency on 12.22.12. Forty-five architects were trained to complete rapid evaluations of affected structures in the event of another disaster.

Rachel Minnery, AIA, chair of the AIA Disaster Assistance Committee, introduced the training program with valuable insight: “In years past, there was more of a concern about loss of life and injury. We’ve done a pretty good job of preparing health agencies and medical professionals in responding to disasters. Our next concern is shelter.” In other words, architects must – first and foremost – mitigate damage to structures in order to allow a devastated community to recover.

The training session included an overview of the AIA Disaster Assistance Program the Safety Assessment Program along with its process and procedures, building evaluations, lifeline systems and facilities, safety, and the role of architects and the AIA. The session incorporated both lecture and interactive components. Attendees broke into working groups to complete rapid evaluations of buildings shown via PowerPoint and assessed the buildings’ habitability, leading to a dynamic discussion.

In response to Superstorm Sandy, AIANY’s Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee (DfRR) has mobilized a Post-Sandy Task Force. This effort will, in part, assist in making AIA New York a clearinghouse for disaster relief information. Its seven working groups will be providing short, medium, and long-term recommendations regarding disaster prevention and relief for the region. According to DfRR Co-chair Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, “[the Task Force will elevate] our preparedness to a new level, and help us look upon Sandy’s devastation as a impetus to elevate the quality of design — and ultimately quality of life — we produce for the City.”

Please visit AIANY’s Post-Superstorm Sandy Events & Initiatives page or contact me at for more information or to add your event to the calendar.