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NEW YORK—In a timely action, given the last month’s devastation from storms and earthquakes, RICS Americas, the New York City-based division of the London-headquartered Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), announced formation of BuildAction, a disaster-management initiative that aims to bring together building industry professionals and humanitarian workers to help vulnerable communities around the world prepare for and recover from disasters. RICS says it is the largest organization for professionals in property, land, construction, and related environmental issues worldwide.

"BuildAction originated from the unprecedented need for post-disaster reconstruction skills after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami," said RICS President David Tuffin, FRICS. "As a public-interest organization comprised of the world’s top built-environment professionals, RICS has a unique opportunity to combine the disaster relief efforts of humanitarian organizations and building professionals to provide immediate and long-term support."

Following the December 2004 tsunami, many chartered surveyors from a range of building and disaster-specific disciplines contacted RICS to volunteer their help and expertise in the relief efforts. This response led to creation of the RICS Major Disaster Management Commission to address how built environment professional skills and knowledge could be deployed to help vulnerable communities at all stages of the disaster-management cycle.

"RICS has worked with the United Nations, World Economic Forum, and major charities to help disaster victims worldwide. Forming BuildAction speaks to the commitment of RICS to utilize its skills to help those who need it most," said RICS Americas Managing Director Matthew Bruck. "One of the primary principles of disaster preparedness is to have a plan in place, and the goal of BuildAction is to create such a plan for the developing world."

BuildAction activities may include helping communities prepare for disasters through urban planning, applying building codes, dealing with land uses, and managing post-disaster reconstruction efforts.

"We have had an amazing response to the BuildAction concept from major international surveying firms and we hope to encourage employers to place staff on post-event disaster projects, with appropriate training," said Tuffin. "Provided the will exists, there are no obstacles that cannot be overcome, and helping others is not only corporate responsibility but a life-changing experience."

Generic surveying skills are essential for participating building professionals, and humanitarian training will be provided for those without disaster-specific experience. BuildAction is currently seeking support and volunteer services from firms and individuals. Contact RICS online at www.buildaction.org. RICS is also seeking existing projects in need of built-environment expertise. Submit information to Karen Gardham, deputy director of RICS’ Major Disaster Management Commission at kgardham@rics.org.