As keynote speaker at the International Association of Emergency Managers conference in Reno, Nev., on Oct. 29, Dennis Mileti sounded an ominous tone in his call to reduce the consequences of natural hazards citing Hurricane Katrina as an example of how badly things can go wrong even when no surprises occur. Mileti, director emeritus of the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder, pointed out lessons learned from a similar hurricane in the 1920s.
SOME OF THE DAMAGE FROM KATRINA — Loss of structural damage reached $21 billion; losses of food and water; 124,000 jobs were lost; every hospital in New Orleans was crippled and six months later just one-third of the beds were available; and 1 million people were displaced, making it the largest permanent migration since the Civil War. Half of it was a failure of the levees — a human failure.
CONSEQUENSES ARE CHANGING — The consequences are changing, upping the ante for political leaders and emergency managers because of a variety of factors including climate change. Warming trends make for more intense storms as well as more heat, drought and floods. In addition, the population is becoming more vulnerable. The population is aging, moving into hazardous areas more often and becoming poorer. Another factor is crumbling infrastructure and “pasted together” utilities.
THERE ARE GAPS IN EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT PLANNING — Few people really understand risk, and most development decisions are made locally without regard to the consequences of a disaster but rather for economic and prosperity. Future risk in terms of loss is rarely considered.
THE SEVEN TOOLS OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT — Mileti listed seven tools that should be used to reduce the consequences of the factors above:
1. Land Use Management (regulations, etc.)
2. Control and Protection Works (protect the public based on real consequences)
3. Building Codes and Practices
4. Public Education
5. Prediction Forecast Warning
6. Insurance (redistribute losses)
7. Preparedness, Planning and Response