It's my understanding that some of what Haiti encountered during the earthquake in 2010 was due in part to building codes that were not stringent enough for the types of disasters the tiny island nation could potentially weather, including earthquakes. If that is indeed not true, that this was just so massive a quake that better building codes wouldn't have made sense, then stop reading now as the rest of this post will be invalid.
I don't mean to be crass or up here spouting off in ignorance from the comfort of my comfy chair, this is just something that's been rattling around in my brain and I wanted to commit it to the blog, as it were. Hopefully it comes across in the manner intended.
But, if it's true that Haiti's building codes were (are?) inadequate, I'd like to offer a proposal. I read recently about when Monsanto got serious about safety - they declared that all of their facilities would be built to U.S. standards, or local country standards, whichever were more stringent. If a country had week or non-existent standards, that was fine, they'd just fall back on U.S. standards and be fairly confident that they weren't just getting by on "good enough."
So my thought is that Haiti ought to adopt a similar idea for building codes. Select a city or state (or country) with similar disaster opportunities - an area that has escaped similar disasters through stricter building codes. Maybe it's L.A., San Francisco, Miami. Maybe it's some other country altogether. But take those building codes and announce "Those are now our building codes." Like a country deciding that its official currency is the U.S. dollar, this would be planting a stake in the ground and saying "we are now in lock-step."
I think it makes sense from a number of perspectives. For the purposes of example, I'll just pick Los Angeles.
First, the government would no longer need to worry about people trying to get around the law or exert political pressure to change the laws to their advantage to the detriment of the people. (Well, at least not Haitians.)
Second, it would cost less. Even if they paid a little to that other organization to be kept in the loop, it would still cost less than developing and maintaining your own set of standards, since I imagine those can change from time-to-time as new technologies and learnings become accepted.
Third, cross-certification. If you can build in Los Angeles, then you know what's required to build in Haiti. And in time, it could work the other way... you've established yourself as a reputable company in Haiti, then you already know all the requirements and laws to get contracting jobs in Los Angeles. You could see other countries wanting to jump on board and suddenly you've got a global thing going and in the process, everyone's safer.
Fourth, tourism and compliance. You can invite code compliance officers and those that write the laws to come over from Los Angeles to train and review procedures. And their families can come along for a vacation very inexpensively. And they tell their friends about the lovely time they had and it's a shot in the arm for tourism.
I suppose it's hard to even think of tourism with Haiti still suffering so much, but that, too, will need to come back. If you'd like to learn more about what's currently going on in Haiti, you might check out World Vision's website. Also, check out these amazing photos from The Big Picture.