Updated: Jul 10
Natural disasters have the potential to devastate entire communities, and in the United States, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers grants to help improve our infrastructure's response to these dangerous and unpredictable events. One of the most critical grants offered by FEMA is the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) grant, which is an annual, competitive grant program designed to fund initiatives that reduce risks from natural hazards by FEMA guidelines. In this blog post, we will explore the three basic requirements for successful FEMA BRIC grant applications, how communities can improve their resilience to natural hazards, and examples of the types of projects eligible for funding.
What are the Three Basic Requirements for a Successful FEMA BRIC Grant Application?
The first and most crucial requirement for a successful FEMA BRIC grant sub-application is that the project must reduce risks from natural hazards, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, severe storms, and flooding. Strategies for mitigating risks from natural hazards vary. FEMA encourages alternative explanations of risk reduction, including results that cannot be measured or calculated, such as addressing inequities and providing the greatest support to those with the greatest need.
The second requirement is that the project must be feasible and effective in that the benefits of the project must outweigh the cost. FEMA requires applicants use their benefit-cost analysis software to demonstrate that the project is cost-effective. The result of the benefit-cost analysis is the benefit-cost ratio (BCR), which measures the ratio of the benefits of the project to its costs.
Finally, communities looking to apply for a BRIC grant must have a current FEMA-approved hazard mitigation plan at the time of application and award. This requirement demonstrates that the project is integrated into the community's overall mitigation strategy and aligns with your community goals.
On this episode of UrbanHydro, host Shauna Urlacher tackles the topic of FEMA BRIC grants and the criteria for applying. With limited funding available, strong applications are required for funding. The three basic criteria required to apply are also discussed, including having a local hazard mitigation plan in good standing. Listeners are provided examples of eligible projects that mitigate natural hazards such as flooding, hurricanes, and severe storms. An example of feasible projects eligible for funding is a neighborhood protected from flooding with little disruption to property, using drainage swales between homes. Overall, this video episode offers valuable insights about applying for FEMA BRIC grants and the program's objective to improve community resilience.
There's a lot on the line when applying for a BRIC grant. For Fiscal Year 2022, FEMA was able to distribute $2.295 billion (estimated) through the BRIC program. All 50 states, tribal nations, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories may apply under this program, with counties and communities acting as sub-applicants to their state. Due to the competitive nature of this program, its crucial communities pay attention to these three criteria!
How Can Communities Improve their Resiliency to Natural Hazards?
Communities can improve their resilience to natural hazards in numerous ways, including constructing flood relief projects, installing generators, constructing safe rooms, and planning. FEMA encourages communities to think creatively about how they approach their natural hazard mitigation projects, providing unique solutions that improve infrastructure and protect communities from existing and future risks due to climate change. One such solution is the use of BRIC planning grants, which can help communities better prepare for and respond to natural disasters.
One of the most critical ways communities can improve their resilience is through the use of BRIC grants, which are designed to help fund innovative mitigation projects.
Can You Provide an Example of a Project that Succeeds with BRIC Grant Criteria?
An example of a project that could be eligible for BRIC funding is retrofitting existing infrastructure to withstand severe storms. For example, a drinking water pump station that frequently experiences power outages due to storms could apply for funding to install a backup generator. As a result, when the power goes out, a crucial component of a community's infrastructure remains functional.
Another example could be the construction of drainage swales between homes and lowering roads in an area at risk of flooding. The drainage swales would drain stormwater runoff away from the homes to the streets. Lowering the roads could convey stormwater through the neighborhood to a downstream detention pond. As a result, the water elevation would be reduced as well as the risk of future flooding.
How Important Is it for a Community to Have a Current, FEMA-Approved Hazard Mitigation Plan in Place?
Having a current, FEMA-approved hazard mitigation plan adopted is critical when applying for a BRIC grant. FEMA requires that all communities applying for BRIC funding have a current hazard mitigation plan adopted at the time of application and award unless they are applying for a planning grant to prepare a FEMA-approved hazard mitigation plan. This requirement aims to align the proposed project with the community's long-term mitigation strategy. Hazard mitigation planning guidance is available on FEMA's website to help communities develop and implement their plans.
Consequently, local governments lacking an approved hazard mitigation plan might lose out on the chance to receive BRIC funding. In 2021, FEMA allocated $500 million in BRIC funding with a cost-share of up to 75% for eligible sub-applicants, such as county or local municipalities. Tribal governments and state agencies can also apply for BRIC funding to build resilient infrastructure, provided they meet the eligibility criteria.
What is FEMA's Benefit-Cost Analysis Software, and How is it Used to Evaluate BRIC Grant Applications?
FEMA's Benefit-Cost Analysis software is a tool used to evaluate all proposed projects that request funding from FEMA's BRIC program. This software assesses the project's cost-effectiveness and measures the project's benefits against the costs. FEMA uses this analysis, along with other documentation, to determine if the proposed projects are feasible and effective and that taxpayers' federal funds are used efficiently.
Can You Discuss the Role of Creative Solutions in Achieving the Goals of the BRIC Grant Program?
While not specifically an element of BRIC program criteria, FEMA encourages creative solutions to achieve goals related to community resilience and disaster preparedness. Funding is more likely for projects that demonstrate innovative approaches to addressing community needs. Creative solutions, such as nature-based solutions, can enhance a community's ability to handle disasters and become more resilient overall. FEMA’s BRIC grant program is an important aspect of disaster preparedness and community resilience.
Can Eligible BRIC Projects Include Both Retrofitting Existing Infrastructure and Building New Infrastructure?
Yes, BRIC projects can involve both. Retrofitting improves resilience and reduces risk, while building new infrastructure addresses gaps and enhances overall resilience. Improvements can include anything from the installation of backup generators to the construction of new infrastructure such as sea walls or detention ponds. However, projects must meet all BRIC program eligibility criteria.
How can Communities Best Prepare for the BRIC Grant Application Process, Particularly in Terms of Dealing with Grant Overwhelm?
Preparing for a BRIC grant application can be a time-consuming and overwhelming process, but the sub-application must be complete and well thought out before the deadline. For complex infrastructure projects, communities can best prepare by having a shovel-ready project that aligns with the goals and strategies of their hazard mitigation plan. By thinking creatively and developing effective solutions that improve infrastructure and protect against natural hazards, applying for FEMA's BRIC grant can be an exciting and rewarding process.
If you and your community need help with the details of applying for a BRIC grant, we should set up a time to chat.
What is the Ultimate Goal of the FEMA BRIC Grant Program, and How Does it Fit into Larger Efforts to Improve Disaster Resilience in the United States?
The BRIC Program provides funding for projects that increase resilience and public safety. It also aims to protect people, property, and infrastructure from natural hazards. The BRIC grant program is part of an overall effort to improve the resilience of our nation's infrastructure and better prepare the United States to respond to natural disasters.
In conclusion, while natural hazards are unavoidable, we can mitigate and reduce the risk of these hazards to people and property. Through FEMA's BRIC grant program and by implementing creative and innovative solutions, communities can build more resilient infrastructure and respond more effectively to natural disasters. By following the three basic requirements outlined in this article, communities can increase their chances of obtaining BRIC funding and develop projects that improve their overall resilience to natural hazards.