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Engaging DC Architects: Resilience by Design

Fri, 2013-04-19 15:27

The following is the Resilience by Design End of Grant Period Report:

Throughout the duration of the 2012 AIA/Architecture for Humanity Disaster Response Plan Grant AFH-DC’s Resilience by Design team maintained a holistic approach; addressing multiple phases of disaster management. During the grant period, AFH-DC RxD has completed the following:

Re-designed four of the DC Department of Health’s Points of Dispensary for use during the Presidential Inauguration
Established a roster of 40 design professionals in the DC area interested in disaster management.
Established a team of 12 dedicated design professionals from the Washington, DC area.
Trained 4 design professionals in CERT and FEMA standards
Created a Design Professional’s Guide to Disasters that will be printed and disseminated to both design students and professionals
Joined the Washington DC VOAD.
Arranged for team members to gain AIA CEU credits for their participation

DC Department of Health Points of Dispensing
To assist the District of Columbia in preparing for future disasters AFH-DC RxD planned to create layout designs for their emergency shelters. When AFH-DC RxD first engaged the local disaster response community the DC government preferred the team to first focus on the Department of Health’s Points of Dispensing (PODs) before engaging in the proposed shelter layout designs. Points of Dispensary are used to dispense mass amounts of medicine in the case of an emergency. They are planned for use during a range of emergencies, including pandemics such as the swine flu as well as bio-terrorist attacks such as anthrax. The PODs utilize existing structures - primarily recreation facilities - throughout the District of Columbia. Because existing space must be adapted to meet the public health needs of these facilities, having an efficient and well-documented layout is critical.

This new proposal of POD work provided for challenges as well as opportunities. The POD work allowed the team to focus on a program that was much smaller and in many ways easier to handle than a full shelter. This was especially beneficial for the team as no one had a public health background. Two representatives from the DC Department of Health met with the team for two hours during the first charrette. During this brief time-period they were able to give a full account of the programmatic needs of the PODs and describe what worked well and would did not work well in regards to their current plans. Throughout a series of charrettes the AFH-DC RxD team redesigned the POD layouts to create maximum efficiency; increasing the existing capacity as much as 8 fold.

An additional opportunity of the POD work is that the success of the four initial POD designs has served as a platform for further networking throughout the DC metropolitan area. This is evident in that the Chief of Prince George’s County Health Department has already contacted AFH-DC RxD in hopes of initiating a similar POD project. This network has also reached beyond the DC metropolitan area in that the CDC is interested in co-authoring an article describing the AFH-DC RxD process. The article would be published in a public health journal in hopes of encouraging the growth of a nation-wide program.

The primary challenge in the shift from shelter work to POD work is that it affected the projected time-frame for completion. The DC Department of Health has a total of 16 PODs. Completing all 16 was not feasible in the allotted six month time period given the abrupt change in plans and the learning curve attributed with this type of work. The AFH-DC RxD team will continue to complete redesigns for the entirety of the Department of Health’s POD stock past the project end date stipulated in the grant agreement.

Disaster Training
To better prepare design professionals for response and recovery tasks AFH-DC RxD aimed to train team members in CERT (Serve DC), FEMA and Red Cross standards. CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) is overseen by Serve DC; an affiliate of the Mayor’s Office. The CERT program offers a free 5-day evening training that addresses aspects of disaster preparedness, disaster psychology and team organization. FEMA offers a series of free on-line courses. For a basic understanding, it is recommended to take part in FEMA courses: IS-100.b, IS-200.b, IS-700.a, and IS-800.b. These courses are roughly 5 hours each. The Red Cross trainings require coordination with the local Red Cross chapter. Completing these courses proved to be a more challenging endeavour than anticipated. During the grant period 4 design professionals were trained in CERT and FEMA standards. This accounts for roughly 10% of the AFH-DC RxD team. Two aspects influenced this somewhat low rate of completed trainings. First, AFH-DC RxD was unable to establish a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Capitol chapter of the Red Cross. Without this partnership, AFH-DC RxD members were not eligible for Red Cross trainings. Second, the CERT and FEMA trainings are arranged and executed on an individual basis. This required each team member to take the initiative to complete these trainings on their own. It is recommended that future trainings are arranged in a group setting to maximize completion rates.

Design Professional's Guide to Disaster
In an effort to mitigate future disasters AFH-DC RxD aimed to encourage design professionals to apply their unique skill sets to disaster management. This was done in the form of a handbook. The handbook begins by explaining the current trend of disaster frequency; followed by a discussion on the various roles of the design professional within disaster management. This first section details what the issue is and why the reader, as a design professional, should get involved. The second section addresses how a design professional can get involved. It provides a partial list of local organizations that design professionals can partner with as well as organizations that provide disaster training. This handbook with be printed and disseminated to students as well as design professionals.

This handbook is designed to be a living document that will grow to incorporate additional information as it becomes available. The document will be placed online and updated accordingly. Future editions will expand on the disaster history of the DC area as well as incorporate additional opportunities for organizational partnerships.