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Driving Innovation for Disaster Recovery Programs

Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, New York, New Jersey, California, Texas, Louisiana, Virginia and Florida all have something in common: each has recently faced the devastating impact of large-scale natural disasters.

“Helping communities recover from and then thrive after disasters is our mission,” says Rick Faircloth, director of state and local government programs for APTIM. He explains the complexity of the challenge and the journey through which American states and territories can rise from devastation to renewal—and how innovation, technology, creative program management and proper stewardship of federal funding are integral to the recovery process. He understands it because APTIM has tactically supported every major natural disaster in the United States since 2005.

Faircloth says the company provides comprehensive resiliency planning and risk-mitigation services to help communities survive, adapt and thrive in the face of environmental, social and economic shocks and stressors. When disasters do strike, APTIM is brought in to provide rapid-response emergency support. This includes getting shelters and temporary housing established, running large-scale debris removal programs, and assessing building and infrastructure damage—all with the goal of bringing facilities and utilities quickly back online. The majority of the work, though, is designing and delivering successful short- and long-term housing recovery programs, often requiring thousands of manhours and years of commitment.

“We understand that disaster recovery often feels like a marathon,” says Domingo Camarano, a vice president in APTIM’s government division. “However, it’s our job to find quick wins that set the stage for long-term success. This approach helps us to earn the confidence of the people whom we are serving, while at the same time build synergy with the agencies we work for.”

Tu Hogar Renace (Your Home Reborn)

A case in point is the ongoing recovery in Puerto Rico, where Hurricane Maria caused damage never before experienced by its current population. Initially, APTIM provided time-critical generator power for electricity restoration and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Public Assistance (PA) technical advisory support to the Puerto Rican government. Today, just a little over a year since the hurricane’s landfall, the company is working to take some of the complexity out of post disaster housing recovery programs to speed up recovery, help communities become more resilient and create new economic opportunities in the aftermath.

For example, APTIM and its partner, EE&G, developed a creative housing recovery program delivery model. “It’s innovative, and it makes it easier for small local contractors to participate in large recovery programs by helping to identify local craft labor and managing the complex supply chain,” Faircloth says. “It addresses logistics, payroll management, project accounting, permitting, compliance and federal grant paperwork. These functions are often too daunting or even impossible for local small businesses to navigate. By developing a system and process to manage these complex elements at the program level, the APTIM team removes hurdles to small business success, allowing local contractors to focus on their core competencies in residential repair and reconstruction.”

APTIM’s Project Manager Erika Morales explains that the company’s “efforts are designed to not only contribute to more resilient housing but also to promote social and economic resilience in impacted communities by creating more jobs and building local capacity in the residential construction space so communities can be better prepared for future disasters.” “We are driven by the need for restoration for the families that are seeking a sense of normalcy in their lives,” Camarano says. “There is nothing more satisfying than returning a clean, safe and habitable home to a family that was once displaced—to see the look on a mother’s face who knows she can once again bring her family together around the dinner table.”

Build It Back

Superstorm Sandy wrought massive damage in just a few days in 2012, but rebuilding continues. APTIM provides program management and

staff augmentation for New York City’s Build It Back program, which is funded through the U.S. Dept. of Housing’s Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR). Through August 2018, the Build It Back program served some 9,000 eligible


The development of a robust information management system was critical to the program’s success, providing the foundation for good data and document management and achieving compliance with rigorous federal requirements. The system was developed and enhanced throughout the life cycle of the Build It Back program, with a focus on strengthening its capabilities and functionality over time and providing the city with better data integrity and visibility.

According to APTIM’s Program Manager Sheila Manek, “it’s all about continuous improvement and advocating for the communities we serve after disasters. We challenge the norms to find better ways to accelerate recovery, drive efficiencies, reduce cost and promote greater equity in recovery. As a result, the benefits of government funded programs reach deeper and impact broader segments of affected communities.”

In this instance, like in Puerto Rico, APTIM is helping the New York City Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery Operations to not only help people rebuild but to do it with resiliency at the forefront and in ways that will provide transformational change. For example, the Build It Back program is helping those living in the hardest-hit waterfront communities to not only rebuild but to elevate about 1,375 homes and comply with improved stringent floodcompliance regulations.

Big Challenges Require Big Solutions

Last December, the City of Houston, the fourth-largest city in the United States, awarded a master program manager (MPM) contract to APTIM to assist in helping homeowners continue to rebuild after Hurricane Harvey. The program is funded through $1.2 billion in CDBG-DR funds and $450 million allocated by FEMA. APTIM is managing all aspects of the program, from prequalifying homebuilders to developing prequalified vendor data to compliance and monitoring oversight. The program will allow for various solutions to meet individual needs, once again allowing for resiliency and a variety of best-use scenarios to benefit the homeowners while assuring wise stewardship of the invested funds. The APTIM team is collaborating with the city to leverage new disaster-recovery technology that will drive efficiencies in the management of CDBG-DR programs and improves collaboration between homeowners, contractors and city officials to deliver homes that meet federal grant requirements.

APTIM. In Pursuit of Better.