The Value of Mitigation — to society and to politicians

Once ago we hear the age old story: by not heeding credible warnings and scientific evidence, a disaster is at least as bad as was expected; and now the state and local governments are looking for federal disaster assistance.  For many years, we have known that for each $1.spent on mitigation,about $4. can be saved in response and recovery costs. Full details are in this study by NIBS in 2005.  Clearly those of us who constitute society seem to have a different view of mitigation than the politicians who have the ability to initiate it. Some details on the New York situation, as noted by the Associated Press.Dec. 9. NY Mostly Ignored Decades of Storm Prep Warnings.

The good news is that the Governor of NY and the Mayor of NY now seem to have a full appreciation of the risks and the likely recurrence of flooding in the near future. Both have taken some positive steps toward future-thinking, resilience-focused actions.  See earlier blogs about the actions of both officials.

MY OPINION: I think that resilience-producing actions are most likely to occur when the general public is informed and concerned about recurring threats and the risks of the and when the political will evolves.  In the case of NY, the Governor and Mayor are political leaders who are confident and courageous enough to break from the status quo. They too knew about reports on threats, risks, vulnerabilities of the coastal community, for several years.

I invite your comments.

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For detailed information about historic major disasters in the U.S. see the new book: Emergency Management; The American Experience, 1900-2010. Available from our sponsor, the Disaster Bookstore.com

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3 Responses to The Value of Mitigation — to society and to politicians

  1. Hazard mitigation is rooted in breaking the disaster cycle. We spend counltess hours, effort, and funding on response. Understanding the need to have the capabilities, we still fail to see a larger vision of investing in a timeframe that outlives a political tenure. Since 9-11, prevention and protection took the role of human-caused or terrorism hazard mitigation. FEMA went so far as to create a 386 series document for it, but many in public safety failed to tie this opportunity to the larger hazard mitigation efforts. Now with weather related disasters clawing their way into our history books, climate adaption is also coming into light with hazad mitigation. FEMA and DHS should leverage this and adapt progams to address this nexus.

  2. Brent Woodworth, chair of the MMC, would admit that there was no scientific study that produced the one dollar to four dollar savings that have been re-stated numerous times. There is a follow-up study that helps, but still nothing conclusive to prove the statement.
    Local politicians argue that the budget “on their watch” takes precedence over the possibility of expenditures due to possible future storm damage. They believe in “pay as you go.”

    • recoverydiva says:

      I have not looked into the methodology and details of the study, but I have assumed that NIBS is a respectable organization.

      I guess if you repeat something often enough, people will accept it!

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