Study to Look at Disaster Mitigation, Use of Codes to Reduce Risk

The study will look at disaster-mitigation efforts in the public sector and the benefits of codes to mitigate natural-disaster impacts in the private sector.

The National Institute of Building Sciences Multihazard Mitigation Council (MMC), with financial support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the International Code Council, and the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, is beginning a study to look at the cost-effectiveness of disaster-mitigation efforts in the public sector, as well as the benefits of using codes to mitigate the impact of natural disasters in the private sector.

In 2005, the MMC completed an independent study, funded by FEMA, to quantify future savings from FEMA’s natural-hazard-mitigation efforts. The finding, “For every public dollar spent on mitigation, there is a savings of $4 to society,” clearly indicated FEMA's natural-hazard-grant mitigation programs had been extremely effective in reducing losses from earthquake, wind, and flood. The resulting report, “Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: An Independent Study to Access the Future Savings From Mitigation Activities,” has become one of the most oft-quoted works on the importance of investing in mitigation and since has been referenced by numerous sources, including members of the U.S. Congress and the media.

In the 12 years since that data was collected, the United States has experienced a host of severe-hazard events—hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, wildfires, floods—a total of 1,653 disaster declarations from 2003 through 2015. The outcome of these events will be reflected in the new study, for which the MMC will:

  • Assess public-sector mitigation grants and loans funded by FEMA and other federal agencies.
  • Look at enhanced design requirements for resisting flood, wind, earthquake, and wildfire for new public and private facilities.
  • Aggregate, for each natural hazard and by vulnerable stakeholder, the benefit-cost ratio of each mitigation measure, considering financial, public health, loss of functionality, employment, historical value, the environment, displacement, and other relevant impacts.
  • Identify, for the entities that fund mitigation measures, the mitigation opportunities that provide the best value.

The initial study established that mitigation saves money for the public sector. An even stronger case can be made if private-sector investments are included. However, the magnitude of the savings has yet to be quantified. This new study, which will deliver the cost-benefit data for a variety of stakeholders, should provide demonstrable proof.

The institute is seeking other organizations to support this national effort by providing funding. To participate, contact rcolker@nibs.org.

To learn more about the original study, click here.

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