Asset inventory, management can play key role when seeking funding assistance following a disaster
Hurricanes. Flooding. Tornadoes. When a natural disaster strikes a community, the immediate response involves public health and safety. But as the assessment of damage to roads, facilities, and other critical infrastructure starts, having an existing asset inventory in place is vital. A thorough asset inventory can help communities make quicker requests for financial assistance to FEMA and other agencies, while also making a better case for more funding.
WithersRavenel’s Funding and Asset Management (FAM) professionals have experience in helping communities prepare for natural disasters, both in building resiliency and in understanding the totality and condition of their infrastructure. The foundation of these plans is an inventory identifying public infrastructure and its condition, which can include water and sewer lines, stormwater structures, pavement, and government facilities.
“Damage inventory is the basis of a public assistance grant,” said Michele Faison, FAM Project Manager. “Having an inventory and identifying all of your existing resources ahead of a disaster, I feel like that is a critical component of preparedness.”
These programs can help small- to medium-sized municipalities get a handle on their infrastructure before a disaster strikes.
“Having an asset inventory can be a huge help to navigating the public assistance program,” said David Gale, FAM Project Manager. “When the disaster comes, you often do not see the full extent of the damage for an extended period of time. Once a federal disaster declaration is issued, the applicant for public assistance only has 60 days to identify and report damages following the recovery scoping meeting, so having the asset inventory up-front can be critical.”
Butch Lawter, PE, WithersRavenel Senior Delivery Officer, understands disasters from multiple perspectives. In addition to his decades of experience in construction and environmental consulting, he is also chairman of the Johnston County Board of Commissioners.
“During a disaster is not the time to have to go back and try to figure out what infrastructure was where,” he said. “Hearing from a lot of other board chairs and managers going through disaster recovery efforts, they wish they would have completed an asset inventory before the disaster.”
An inventory can also benefit a community when considered historically. A disaster in the past, say 10 years ago, can offer insights into repair costs for existing infrastructure. Past disasters can also allow a community to pinpoint more vulnerable areas, and perhaps adjust their land-use plans and target public and private building investment in safer areas.
With an asset inventory in place, communities can then target necessary investments and repairs through Capital Improvement Plans (CIP). Michele said that FEMA often looks more favorably upon reimbursements when communities have evidence of their work to improve and harden their at-risk infrastructure assets rather than ignoring them only until something bad happens.
“Once we have that asset inventory information, we can help communities with life-cycle modeling, so they can manage their infrastructure going forward,” Butch said. An Asset Management Plan (AMP) can help communities identify problem areas to better manage their infrastructure risks.
“Understanding the risks in your system is vital,” Director of Funding Amanda Whitaker said. “With an AMP, a community can show that they are maintaining these assets. It can also show that you have an active CIP, and you are improving your assets during the blue-sky times. Then you have evidence that an asset did not fail from the lack of you maintaining it, but truly this disaster is what caused the failure.”
“Let’s say a hurricane comes in 2030,” said WithersRavenel Chief Experience & Innovation Officer Eddie Staley, PLS, GISP. “We’ve invested at a certain level up to that point and we have that recorded. So we can define a quality level for that infrastructure based on our investment – before and then after through an assessment. We can then use that information when applying for disaster reimbursement.
“Any time we have data that is easily and clearly understandable, it makes your case stronger.”
There are a variety of levels of asset management plans available, which blend infrastructure data and technology to chart a plan for future investment and success. AMPs can focus on a single asset class, such as pavement or sewer lines, or can encompass an entire system and even include public facilities, land use maps, and socioeconomic data.
Asset management can provide insights into how much it would cost to repair infrastructure in specific areas, perhaps portions of communities that are more vulnerable to disasters. It can also indicate how investment at certain levels impacts infrastructure performance, allowing communities to manage their finances and assets in a targeted way that maximizes their dollars.
Sometimes, AMPs can be used as the basis for funding applications centered on targeted improvements to specific, vulnerable infrastructure. In this way, asset management can help pay for itself while garnering funds for community repairs that build resilience for the future to better withstand potential disasters. As communities grow across North Carolina, and the risk of stronger storms mounts, the importance of asset inventories and management grows exponentially.
Asset inventories and management programs can also provide real-time benefits in disaster scenarios. Community leaders can know ahead of time areas vulnerable to flooding, for example. An inventory could also be shared with critical utilities upon response to help with location of water and sewer assets.
“Asset management data can become an interface that becomes part of the command center during or after a post-storm event to understand where the issues may be,” Eddie said.
The ultimate goal of an asset inventory when considering disaster response is two-fold: First, when a disaster strikes, being able to secure the maximum amount of funding for your community. Second, by understanding your infrastructure you can build community resilience. That way, when a disaster strikes, perhaps the damage can be limited.
“The point is to understand your threats and your hazards – and by doing so you are improving your community’s resilience,” Michele said.
WithersRavenel’s Funding and Asset Management professionals would love to speak with you about opportunities to increase community resilience and prepare for potential disasters.
For funding questions, contact Director of Funding Amanda Whitaker at 919-238-0448 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For asset management questions, contact Director of Asset Management Malak Bahrami at 919-535-5148 or email@example.com.
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