Penn State alumnus and a business help Joplin rebuild after devastating tornado

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – On May 22, 2011, an EF-5 tornado struck Joplin, Missouri, creating chaos and destruction throughout the city. With wind speeds of up to 200 miles per hour, the tornado was the costliest and one of the deadliest in U.S. history, damaging or destroying 8,000 buildings totaling $2.8 billion, killing 161, injuring an estimated 1,150 and leaving the community devastated.

For the last three years, Rizwan Shah, an architectural engineering alumnus, and Deloitte Transactions and Business Analytics LLP have worked to reverse the damage.

Shah said immediately after a storm the caliber of the Joplin tornado, cities go through an emergency process – working to save lives, remove debris, save building infrastructure and assess damage. After completing the emergency process, communities then receive funding to rebuild from various avenues such as insurance companies and local and federal governments, that they can use to rebuild.

Often, communities are not staffed or equipped to take on developing a recovery plan and handling the administrative tasks of hundreds of millions of dollars in funding. They need assistance from firms that understand engineering construction, capital planning and the federal funding process for correct and appropriate use of the funds. 

For Joplin city officials, a partnership with Deloitte was necessary to track and report the progress of $158 million worth of projects in the city’s capital recovery plan.

“The first thing to do is develop a long-term plan,” Shah, lead client service partner for the city of Joplin, Deloitte Advisory, said. “The big decisions that you make in the first 6 months or year after a natural disaster really drive what your city could look like 10 years down the road.”

Joplin is currently in the action step of long-term recovery. The city is working to reconstruct efficiently and effectively, all while involving citizens in the decision-making process. Deloitte aids by using its expertise to integrate management, optimization, funding, planning, engineering design and construction management to deliver the final product – a revitalized community.

“This is a unique project where you can almost immediately see the impact. Being part of the conversation, seeing the community come together, is incredibly rewarding,” Shah said.

Advancements in technology allow Deloitte to keep community members aware of redevelopment progress through an instantaneously updating, mobile dashboard database known as the City of Joplin Community Development Building Grant/Disaster Recovery Capital Project Dashboard (City of Joplin CDBF/DRCPD).

Shah said the City of Joplin CDBF/DRCPD allows for real-time updating of milestones, objectives and progress of the redevelopment.

“It provides the city management with transparency to everything that is going on and creates a great wealth of integrity to the overall program. Some of our clients don’t have the technology infrastructure to develop, hold and operate a database like this. The facts we record are powerful and cost-effective.”

Shah credits his time as a Penn State architectural engineering student with providing him with the necessary skills to oversee recovery programs like Joplin and integrate technology like the CDBF/DRCPD into the process.

“From the construction side, knowing how to present analysis and having design build knowledge is key,” he said. “AE is a tremendous program – the technical and soft skills it provides future engineers with are invaluable.”

In addition to using his architectural engineering knowledge and practical experience to aid in the reconstruction of Joplin, Shah finds it rewarding to provide community members with the opportunity to rebuild and live their lives in their community.

“It allows me to think with my heart first and then use my experience to make the best decisions for the community,” he said.

Learn more about Deloitte’s work on the Joplin recovery program here.

Last Updated January 26, 2016