ne thing we know for certain is that, sooner or later, there will be another natural disaster! We may not know when, where or what kind of disastrous natural event will occur, but it will happen. It is therefore important that globally we increase awareness about the physical and financial risks of natural hazards and educate people about how those risks can be addressed to counteract (not necessarily eliminate) natural disasters.
The following information represents clips taken from a White Paper from the Industry Council for the Built Environment (ICBE). The complete White Paper can be seen at www.nbm.org.
The ICBE was launched in 2009 and is comprised of leaders who determine and influence the quality of our built world. Design, planning, construction and engineering practitioners join with those in real estate, finance, policy and media to ensure we are collectively producing a safe, healthy and vibrant built environment.
Collectively, they have made recommendations that target four groups of stakeholders whose leadership can increase the resiliency of the built environment:
- U.S. Congress
- Federal Agencies & The White House
- State and local Governments
- Private Sector corporations, associations and nonprofits
A couple of recommendations for all levels of government are:
- Use life- cycle costs and savings rather than short term expenditure to determine infrastructure spending
- Encourage expansion of planning grants for communities so they can plan for future disasters, rather than focus on emergency responses
- Encouragement to implement more rigorous building site selection/approvals, design, maintenance of real estate
Recommendations for the private sector included:
- Education on how disaster mitigation works financially
- Educate property owners on the benefits of proper selection of where to build, quality of structure and how well building are maintained
- Organize and discuss strategies to prepare for natural disasters and for the recovery from natural disasters
The importance of mitigating disasters is probably best demonstrated by comparing the 2010 Chile earthquake which was the seventh strongest ever recorded. The death toll from that event was 342 compared with the death toll or over 200,000 people in Haiti. Building codes played a major role in reducing the loss of life in Chile.
At the ICBE annual meeting last May, members affirmed that, given the central role infrastructure plays during a disaster, maintaining and upgrading key infrastructure systems, from the electrical grid to the water and sewer systems to the transportation infrastructure, must also be considered fundamental to any strategic plan to improve community resilience to disasters.
What Can We Do?
Of course there are a few things that we can do locally when building or rennovating to best prepare ourselves for natural disasters. We will address this aspect of the subject in our next issue!
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