Public Release: 

Groups urge Bush: rethink natural hazards approach

National Center for Atmospheric Research/University Corporation for Atmospheric Research

Professional groups urge incoming administration to take new approach to natural hazards

WASHINGTON--A group of organizations concerned about staggering human and economic losses caused by natural hazards is asking the incoming administration to take a new national approach to disasters such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and wildfires.

Led by the American Meteorological Society (AMS) and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), more than 30 cosigning organizations want the Bush administration to make natural disaster reduction a national priority and take specific steps to build the country's resilience to natural hazards.

Natural disasters are taking a tremendous toll on the country. For example, 1992's Hurricane Andrew resulted in 61 deaths, hundreds of thousands homeless, and more than $23 billion in damages; the 1993 Midwest floods displaced more than 50,000 and created losses of nearly $21 billion; 1994's Northridge earthquake resulted in 65 deaths, 12,000 hospitalized, and $45 billion in damages; and Hurricane Floyd in 1999 triggered the evacuation of 4 million people and drove more than 10,000 into shelters. These four events alone caused damages of over $100 billion.

"Property destruction and business disruption due to disasters now rival warfare in terms of losses," the group reported in a document now being distributed to the Bush transition teams and members of Congress.

The group predicts that the incoming administration will face disasters carrying price tags ranging from $10 to $100 billion, such as regional water shortages costing at least as much as the gasoline-price increases of 2000, multiple power shortages due to weather extremes, and military operations compromised by severe weather and other hazards.

What can be done to build our resilience? The group has nine specific recommendations. First and foremost, the administration should conduct a national assessment of community vulnerability.

This assessment can then be used to prioritize mitigation efforts and identify potential vulnerabilities. The other recommendations are to

  • develop incentives for communities and states to implement mitigation measures;
  • improve the timeliness and reliability of hazard detection and warnings;
  • build consideration of hazards into every relevant federal government decision;
  • create partnerships among government, private enterprise, and the academic community to reduce vulnerabilities;
  • make loss estimates for all disasters systematic and uniform;
  • use the model of aviation accidents for natural disasters, where each incident prompts analysis, recommendations for change, and follow-through;
  • work cooperatively with other nations to reduce vulnerability to hazards; and
  • take hazard experience into account when making critical appointments at agencies involved in natural hazard mitigation.

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Co-signing organizations are the Alliance of American Insurers, American Association for Wind Engineering, American Geological Institute, American Geophysical Union, American Meteorological Society, American Red Cross, Applied Technology Council, Association of American Geographers, Association of American State Geologists, Association of Contingency Planners, Association of State Floodplain Managers, Blue Sky Foundation, Circum Pacific Council for Energy and Mineral Resources, Consortium of Organizations for Strong Motion Observation Systems, Dewberry & Davis LLC, Disaster Recovery Business Alliance, and Earthquake Engineering Research Institute.

Also, Emergency Information Infrastructure Project, Institute for Businessand Home Safety, International Association of Emergency Managers, International Code Council Inc., IRIS Consortium, MLC & Associates, Multihazard Mitigation Council of the National Institute of Building Sciences, National Emergency Management Association, National Fire Protection Association, Reinsurance Association of America, Seismological Society of America, State Farm Insurance Companies, Telcordia Technologies, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, The Weather Channel, Western Disaster Center, Western States Seismic Policy Council, and W.F. Baird & Associates.

The cosigners are members of a recently formed Natural Hazards Caucus Work Group http://www.agiweb.org/workgroup/, designed to support the Congressional Natural Hazards Caucus http://www.senate.gov/~edwards/cnhc/.

The full document is available on the AMS and UCAR web sites: http://www.ametsoc.org/am and http://www.ucar.edu/communications/awareness/2001

Contacts: Anatta
Telephone: 303-497-8604
Fax: 303-497-8610
E-mail: anatta@ucar.edu

Stephanie Kenitzer
American Meteorological Society
202-682-9006
Kenitzer@dc.ametsoc.org

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