Community planning plays an important role in reducing the damage resulting from natural disasters. Such hazard-mitigation activities reduce the long-term risks to life and property from events such as blizzards, ice storms, flooding, hurricanes, earthquakes, wild fires, tornadoes, landslides, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions.
Major hurricanes and storms can cause property damage in the tens of millions of dollars and lead to hundreds of deaths. Experts predict that future natural hazard events in the US could be even more damaging and costly. Global climate change is expected to increase the frequency and severity of storms. US residents are more vulnerable to natural disasters because the population is becoming more concentrated in high-risk coastal areas and residential development in forested areas is interrupting natural burn cycles.
People who have chronic illnesses, functional limitations, or disabilities are especially vulnerable during natural disasters. They may take multiple medications, rely on formal or informal caregivers for assistance, and experience general frailty. Other factors that increase vulnerability in emergencies and disasters include living alone and in isolated rural areas.
Hazard-mitigation planning can help communities identify the natural hazards to which they are susceptible and develop a strategy for reducing their vulnerability. Many of the strategies identified in hazard mitigation plans are implemented through land-use planning, development regulations, and building codes. Conflicting local interests, cost concerns, and a lack of public awareness of the importance of mitigation planning are major impediments to implementing mitigation activities.
Well-planned post-disaster recovery efforts are also needed when disasters do occur.
Natural Hazard Mitigation and Recovery: Policy
Natural hazard mitigation
Local government should implement and enforce disaster-resistant building codes, design regulations, and infrastructure plans.
Local government should implement education and related activities to ensure that communities are engaged and well prepared.
State and local governments should use the tools available to prevent development in high-risk zones such as flood zones, steep slopes, or areas with unstable soil.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, in consultation with other appropriate federal agencies, should develop and maintain a national comprehensive strategic framework that incorporates both pre-disaster mitigation and post-disaster recovery efforts. The framework should include items such as common mitigation goals, performance measures, reporting requirements, the role of specific activities in the overall framework, and the roles and responsibilities of federal, state, and local agencies and nongovernmental stakeholders.
Federal, state, and local governments should put in place technology infrastructure that will enable rapid communications and easy, transparent access to necessary information before, during, and after a disaster.
Federal, state, and local governments should explicitly plan for the needs of older adults and people with disabilities in their disaster-recovery efforts and include these individuals in planning exercises.