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Volume 29, Issue 5

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Jon Seals

Jon Seals

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Texas legislators are investigating the benefits of RAPIDO, a pilot program developed with recommendations from Texas A&M University’s Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center (HRRC), that dramatically reduces the time it takes to rebuild homes destroyed by natural disasters.

The Texas Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations is studying RAPIDO and other disaster recovery efforts in Texas to develop policy recommendations prior to the January 2017 state legislative session.

In a Texas Senate hearing on post-disaster housing recovery held last year, a San Benito resident, Amita Melendez, testified that her mother, who had tried for years to rebuild her home that was badly damaged by Hurricane Dolly in 2008, was able to move into a modern, customized home within six months of entering the RAPIDO program.

The program is managed by buildingcommunityWORKSHOP, a Texas-based, nonprofit organization that employs design to improve community livability and viability. The group was founded by Brent Brown ’91, who earned bachelor of environmental design and master of architecture degrees at Texas A&M.

In developing recommendations for RAPIDO, HRRC researchers reviewed 40 reports detailing obstacles and challenges faced by homeowners trying to rebuild in the wake of Gulf and Atlantic coast hurricanes between 2005-2015.

“One key finding was the need to address long delays faced by those transitioning from temporary housing to permanent housing,” said Shannon Van Zandt, the HRRC research faculty fellow and professor of urban planning who headed the review. “The RAPIDO program was developed to respond to this challenge by helping residents return to their property within three months, then build their home incrementally.”

Van Zandt was assisted by Jaimie Hicks Masterson, an HRRC research assistant, and Master of Urban Planning student Katherine Barbour, who earned a degree in 2015.

Once accepted into the RAPIDO program, families move into pre-assembled modules erected on their property within days of a disaster. Then, the homeowners provide design input for their new homes, which are constructed around the module at a pace and budget they can afford. The process creates a much quicker and more equitable path to permanent housing for low-income residents, who are often most at risk from disasters, say the researchers.

In her testimony to the Texas senators, Melendez said the RAPIDO program provided her mother the safest, healthiest home she’s had in years, but the obstacles to rebuilding prior to her joining the program were such that her father passed away before the new home was finished.

His death speaks to the urgency of disaster recovery needs, Melendez said. “We cannot leave Texans waiting year after year for safe housing after a hurricane or tropical storm.”

The RAPIDO program will be featured at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York in “By the People: Designing a Better America,” an exhibit of exemplary design models in the U.S.

The exhibit, slated to run Sept. 30, 2016 through Feb. 26, 2017, will highlight design solutions that expand access to education, food, health care and affordable housing; increase social and economic inclusion; offer improved alternative transportation options; and provide a balanced approach to land use between the built and natural environments.

Can you imagine living in a property that has flooded 10 times? How about 20 times? It’s hard to fathom enduring that kind of situation, yet owners of 2,109 properties across the United States experience just that. Not only has each of these properties flooded more than 10 times, but the National Flood Insurance Program has paid to rebuild them after each flood. One home in Batchelor, Louisiana flooded 40 times and received a total of $428,379 in flood insurance payments. 

These properties—and more than 30,000 others that have flooded multiple times—illustrate the current problems of the National Flood Insurance Program and also provide some insights into how challenging it will be to cope with sea level rise, flooding due to extreme weather, as well as other impacts of climate change. It is anticipated that between 4 and 13 million people’s homes could be inundated due to sea level rise by 2100.

How many of these homes will be in the same situation, repeatedly damaged by floods, and the main assistance provided is to repeatedly rebuild? How the nation—and the National Flood Insurance Program—face this dilemma is a key question we need to answer if we are going to prepare for and adapt to the impacts of climate change. That’s why NRDC decided to take a close look at how we’re already addressing properties that have been repeatedly flooded.



Thursday, 18 August 2016 00:00

Understanding Due Diligence Data and Insight

Since the United States Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission required companies to conduct adequate due diligence on third parties in order to meet their compliance obligations under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other similar legislation, there has been an explosion of due diligence providers entering the market.

These providers have come from all walks of life – from ex-police officers and military intelligence to magazine and newspaper publishers – who have vast amounts of data that they have repackaged as “due diligence.” It is very tough for a company to really understand what they are buying and how to sort out the best fit for their company.

In most large companies, the legal and compliance departments will ask the procurement department to help select a new provider for this due diligence. While involving procurement can be beneficial from certain perspectives, it does create some challenges, as typically the department doesn’t really understand the depth of advice that they are purchasing or how to differentiate between various providers.



Thursday, 18 August 2016 00:00

Why Model Risk Matters

Model risk management gained traction in the risk landscape with the issuance of the Joint Supervisory Guidance on Model Risk Management in 2011: SR 11-7/OCC 2011-12.  This guidance differed from the initial OCC Circular 2000-16 in that it mandated that financial institutions begin to think of model risk management as a risk similar to existing major risk areas: credit, market and operational risks.  Eventually this led to the creation of a new risk function, the Chief Model Risk Officer (CMRO); a new risk policy, the Model Risk Management Policy; and a new department, Model Governance, separate from individual model validations.  A virtual lexicon of risk terms came into use: model definition, model risk management policy, model inventory, model life cycle, access controls, model change controls, etc.

Model Risk Fundamentals

The definition of a model was articulated as “consisting of three components: an information input component, which delivers assumptions and data to the model; a processing component, which transforms inputs into estimates; and a reporting component, which translates the estimates into useful business information.”[1] Therefore, at its core, a model is a computational process with three components.

Model risk arises through errors in the individual components, through the way they are put together or in the way they are used.  Thus, data input errors can result in errors in model outputs.  Errors in model specification, either due to inappropriate conceptual design, methodology or inaccurate implementation, can also result in inaccurate model outputs.  Finally, even if data quality is both reliable and sufficient, and the algorithms are accurate and properly implemented, model risk can still arise through misuse of model outputs.



You’re probably familiar with phishing, in which hackers try to trick users into unsafe practices by sending phony emails. Popular lore suggests that “phishing” is derived from “fishing” and the idea that hackers, for some reason, like to replace the letter “f” with the letters “ph”.

A more recent addition to the hackers’ arsenal is whaling. In this case, hackers try to imitate the email style of a high ranking member of a company, like a CEO, and trick another employee into transferring company funds (or is that “phunds”) to a bogus account. What then is the best way to fight such tactics?

Whaling emails usually contain few or no indicators that conventional anti-virus software can pick up.