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Hazards

Group: Disaster/evacuation, resilience, preparation, hazard management
Group: Members: Rob Verchick, Ana Schwab, Gavin Smith
Scribe: Tim Dodge
Date: Oct. 18, 2008

General comments

  • Stronger incentives are needed to encourage development in the right place, as well as strengthening of disincentives that discourage unsuitable development.
  • For organizational purposes, we talked about four broad categories of disaster management:
    • Preparedness
    • Response
    • Mitigation
    • Recovery
  • There is a disconnect between those who have money and those who have needs.
  • Communication problems are at the core of this issue in many instances.
  • Planning should include horizontal and vertical integration. This can help harmonize the information, terms and measures between groups and lead to a better understanding and cooperation by stakeholders in horizontal and vertical relations (improving co-ordination and cooperation.
  • Speed vs. deliberation - People often mistakenly measure recovery success based on the speed.
  • The importance of good leadership in disaster situations cannot be overstated.
  • Look at examples of leadership shown by Governors Jim Hunt (Hurricane Fran, Floyd) and Haley Barbour (Hurricane Katrina) as compared to former FEMA chief Michael Brown.
  • Can be difficult to address the dynamic nature of hazards and climate change in a system that is designed at promoting stability in laws and regulations

Prevention/Mitigation

What existing laws will climate change effect?

- National Flood Insurance Act (42 U.S.C. ? 4001 et seq.)
- Coastal Zone Management Act (16 U.S.C. ? 1451 et seq.)
- Posse Comitatas Act (18 U.S.C. ? 1385)
- Stafford Act, Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000, and Pre-disaster Mitigation Act of 2005 (codified at 42 U.S.C. ? 5121 et seq.)
- Coastal Barrier Resources Act (16 U.S.C. ? 3501 et seq.)
- National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. ? 4321 et seq.), particularly provisions related to land suitability analysis and disclosure of flooding, potential impacts
- Flood control acts passed by Congress, particularly the Flood Control Act of 1928 (Pub.L. 70-596) and the Flood Control Act of 1965 (Title II of Pub.L. 89-298).
- Land use planning and zoning
-Tax code
- Infrastructure policies/investments
- Whole balance of federalism, police power
- This list is by no means exhaustive

Pressure points:

- Shock - Once the disaster is on top of us, are we still able to function?
- Leadership - Good leadership is important, but at the same time we should try to develop a system that can survive even in the face of disaster where leadership is lacking or unclear.- Timing - Big business and government want to do things very quickly, and they can make decisions that would have impacts for a very long time.
- Social justice and ethical concerns - Some tough questions have to be addressed. For example, do you want to argue for the right of vulnerable people to be in a vulnerable place?
- Rights and/or entitlements to natural resources.
- We can't rely purely on market forces to make these decisions.

Response:

- Emergency personnel - better training and certification needed.
- Evacuations can be improved - forecasting models are very important,
- Issues with demographics, population changes (people new to area, vulnerable communities) - what about pets?
- Plans should really be regional and inclusive - multi-state, all levels of government
- Example of good action - mailing social security checks out early to allow evacuees to have funds available during evac.

Specific programmatic examples:

Example 1: NFIP

A program in need of change.

- Too static, isn't responsive or adaptable
- Problems with leaving too much to local governments.
Not enough communities are looking at future conditions mapping, even though invests up-front in disaster prevention are generally more efficient than big payouts for disaster assistance later)
Costs and complexity of issues can overwhelm resources.
- High levels of uncertainty - what is an acceptable level of risk?
- Would you get rid of federal flood insurance for residential homeowners? Consider the environmental justice and social implications of such actions.
- Definitional problems - Look how persons whe suffer greater than 50 percent damage ("substantial damage") are treated, as opposed to those who suffer 49 percent damage.
- Need for new flood maps and regular updating of maps, particularly in light of potential for increased size and scale of hazards.

Example 2: Stafford Act

-Administrative authority is prs.obably not sufficient to accomplish needed change
-We need a larger disaster recovery act: The Stafford Act should be amended to change its focus on spending upfront to save later, as well as to increase accountability of individuals and local governments to reduce moral hazard.

Goal is to make parties less reliant after receiving aid, not to engender further dependence.
Incorporate sustainability and resilience into planning
First, however, we need to build capacity and improve information

Disaster recovery plans
Settlement patterns
Risk assessment
Training needs
Funding

- One piece of current legislation that would make some of these needed changes is H.R. 6658, The Disaster Response, Recovery, and Mitigation Enhancement Act of 2008 (Sponsored by Rep. Oberstar, D-MN).

Example 3: FEMA:

- Does it belong in Homeland Security?
- Should we invest in robust pre-event planning?
- Our current aid process engenders dependence (viewed more like entitlement)
- Need to frame resources in a broader way - money, policies, technical assistance

Some common themes about improvements can be made to these programs:

- Put pre-event planning up front
- Increase accountability of recipient aid (with aid comes responsibility)
- Build capacity - professionalization, accreditation - in order to increase self reliance
- Federal government can and should play a more proactive role.

Summary:

Many tough issues remain:
- Liability:
If development met standards, but failure occurred, is there any public liability?
If it's a discretionary duty, is there liability?
Limits on liability of federal government.
- Is there an affirmative duty to keep people out of harm's way?
- Ttransition steps
- Can't just take away current reliance on programs. Large percentage of infrastructure is privately owned.
- Environmental justice considerations embodied in Executive Order 12898.
- Is this is a constitutional issue? - See writings by Stephen M. Griffin on this issue.

Positive thoughts:

- Efforts to recognize adaptive communities

  • Community Rating Systems
  • "Adapto"
  • Disclosure statements, marketing, advertising

- We can learn and adapt!

  • Lessons from past storms.
  • Hurricane Pam simulation was instructive and helpful.
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