A National Priority: Building Resilience to Natural Hazards


The time has come for a new national approach to natural hazards.

Fireman, Point Reyes National Seashore, California, ©Raymond K. Gehman, National Geographic

Historically, we have regarded hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, drought, wildfires, and other extremes as unforeseeable and their associated devastation as unavoidable. But science and engineering have advanced the characterization and prediction of natural hazards and provided new tools for protecting people and property while shedding new light on how long-established public policies and ways of doing business have made society more vulnerable. Today, we possess unprecedented means to anticipate hazards, protect citizens and property, and reduce accompanying disruption. There is a flip side, however: in the aftermath of disasters, today's public officials are rarely held blameless.


U.S. disaster costs are increasing—in part an inevitable consequence of population growth and rising wealth. Losses are aggravated further because greater numbers of citizens live in harm's way, often tragically unaware of their vulnerability. Each decade, property damage has doubled or tripled in terms of constant dollars. Individual events can inflict staggering human suffering and dollar losses totaling tens of billions—for example 1992's Hurricane Andrew (61 deaths, hundreds of thousands homeless, $23B), the 1993 Midwest floods (more than 50,000 displaced, $21B), 1994's Northridge earthquake (65 deaths, 12,000 hospitalized, $45B). In 1999, Hurricane Floyd triggered the evacuation of nearly 4 million people and drove more than 10,000 into shelters. Property destruction and business disruption due to disasters now rival warfare in terms of loss. In comparison with the above disasters, waging the Persian Gulf War cost the United States and its allies $60B.

Natural extremes take many forms. The next President must be ready to contend with

Events like these will lead to increasingly severe economic, social, and political consequences—at the local, state, and federal levels.

Accordingly, disaster reduction can and should be a national priority. The incoming administration can build U.S. resilience to extreme events by taking the following steps:

We, the undersigned institutions, urge the incoming administration to give priority to these actions:

David M. Farmer, Senior Vice President Federal Affairs
Alliance of American Insurers

Michael P. Gaus, President
American Association for Wind Engineering

Russell G. Slayback, President
American Geological Institute

Marcia K. McNutt, President
American Geophysical Union

Ronald D. McPherson, Executive Director
American Meteorological Society

John A. Clizbe, Vice President, Disaster Services
American Red Cross

Ian M. Friedland
Associate Director for Development
Applied Technology Council

Ronald F. Abler, Executive Director
Association of American Geographers

Jonathan G. Price, President
Association of American State Geologists

Brenda Jones, National Chairperson and CEO
Association of Contingency Planners

Lisa Holland, Chair
Association of State Floodplain Managers

Don Markle, Executive Director
Blue Sky Foundation

Nahum Schneiderman, President
Circum Pacific Council for Energy and Mineral Resources

Bruce A. Bolt, President
Consortium of Organizations for Strong Motion Observation Systems

Lawrence Olinger, Managing Prinicipal
Dewberry & Davis LLC

Mary L. Carrido, Co-founder
Disaster Recovery Business Alliance

Susan K. Tubbesing, Executive Director
Earthquake Engineering Research Institute

Avagene Moore, President
Emergency Information Infrastructure Project

Harvey G. Ryland, President and CEO
Institute for Business and Home Safety

Elizabeth B. Armstrong, Executive Director
International Association of Emergency Managers

Richard P. Kuchnicki, Executive Vice President
International Code Council, Inc.

Anne Meltzer, Executive Committee Chair
IRIS Consortium

Don Saracco, Vice President
MLC & Associates

Gerald Jones, Chair
Multihazard Mitigation Council of the National Institute of Building Sciences

James Greene, President
National Emergency Management Association

George D. Miller, President and CEO
National Fire Protection Association

Frank Nutter, President
Reinsurance Association of America

Susan Newman, Executive Director
Seismological Society of America

Herman Brandau, Associate General Counsel
State Farm Insurance Companies

James Hammill, Advisor‹Special Projects
Telcordia Technologies

Richard A. Anthes, President
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research

Raymond J. Ban, Senior Vice President Meteorological Affairs & Operations
The Weather Channel

Richard H. Davies, President
Western Disaster Center

Patricia L. Sutch, Executive Director
Western States Seismic Policy Council

Bill Baird, President
W.F. Baird & Associates

Co-signing organizations are members of the Natural Hazards Caucus Work Group. For further information on the group and its activities in support of the Congressional Natural Hazards Caucus, visit www.agiweb.org/workgroup or contact the Work Group cochairs: David Applegate ( applegate@agiweb.org, 703-379-2480 x228) and Peter Folger (PFolger@agu.org, 202-777-7509).

This document is published by the American Meteorological Society and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. The American Meteorological Society (AMS) is a scientific and professional society of more than 11,000 members from the United States and over 100 foreign countries. The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR, www.ucar.edu) is a consortium of over 60 North American universities offering Ph.D.s in the atmospheric or related sciences and includes scores of international and academic affiliate institutions.

UCAR > Communications > Awareness > 2001 > Hazards Search

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