The Safe Building Code Incentive Act (SBCIA), which provides financial incentive for states to adopt and enforce stronger building codes, was introduced to the U.S. House and Senate on May 8. If passed, the bill will be a step towards adopting uniform building codes.

According to the bill’s summary, the SBCIA would authorize the president to offer 4 percent more than what is offered in federal relief after a major disaster, if the area affected has implemented an approved building code.

Currently, there is little consistency in codifying or enforcing building standards across the U.S., Julie Rochman, Institute for Business and Home Saftey president and CEO told Fire Chief magazine, a sister publication of American City & County. “There are a number of states that do neither,” Rochman said. “Some of them just enact, some just enforce, but there are an amazing number of states that do not have a statewide building code nor enforce the codes already on their books.”

Approved codes would come from one of two recent iterations of the International Residential Code, a listing of safety criteria for various building applications, such as heating and cooling systems, plumbing fixtures and ventilation methods for structures. States would be encouraged to use the code as a foundation, adapting it for their specific needs, according to Fire Chief.

“We want to make sure that we’re empowering states to put in the kind of safeguards that they need,” Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Economic Development,Public Buildings and Emergency Management, told Fire Chief. “Obviously we have a number of natural disasters across the nation that may vary from state to state… Certainly there is a set of standards that we can put in place from a national perspective, meet some basic criteria, but then empower each of the states to improve their criteria that would match a higher standard.”

Funds for the new program would draw from existing grants created by the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website. Created in 1988, the Stafford act constitutes the statutory authority for most federal disaster response, especially as it pertains to FEMA.

16 states enforce building codes that qualify for the additional SBCIA funding. Another 15 would qualify after minor changes to current regulations, according to Fire Chief.

“Every part of our country is vulnerable to one or more potentially devastating natural hazards – and that is why improving disaster mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery should be a national priority,” Rochman said in a statement. “Enactment of the SBCIA is important, because thirty-four states currently do not put the power of modern building science to work for their homeowners, businesses and taxpayers. Every American community deserves to be covered by modern building codes – and that would significantly improve our nation’s safety and resilience over time.”

To read the Fire Chief report, click here.