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The Long-Term Impact of Hazard Mitigation

Flood Protection Sandbags with flooded homes in the backgroundBenjamin Franklin once said that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” As regions such as Texas, Florida, California, and Puerto Rico struggle to recover from damaging natural disasters, the implications of those words for the mortgage, housing, and servicing industries are becoming very clear. Now a new report has thrown a spotlight on just how much that ounce of prevention can be worth in real-world terms.

The National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) has issued a report entitled “Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: 2017 Interim Report,” following up on a similar report originally published more than a decade earlier. With the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) having singled out 2017 as the costliest year on record when it came to weather- and climate-related disasters, NIBS’ report takes a look at various hazard mitigation strategies that can be implemented to help cushion the impacts of such natural disasters.

According to the report, federal mitigation funding through grant programs “can save the nation $6 in future disaster costs, for every $1 spent on hazard mitigation.” That’s quite a return on investment, and something worth considering as NOAA reports there were 16 weather- and climate-related U.S. disasters that each exceeded $1 billion in damages in 2017. The total cost of these disasters was $306.2 billion, according to NOAA, which easily surpassed the previous annual record of $214.8 billion set in 2005.

The NIBS study drew its conclusions based on 23 years’ worth of federally funded mitigation grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It also found that designing buildings to exceed the International Code Council’s (ICC) model building codes could save the U.S. $4 for every $1 spent.

The report concludes that that level of federal investment and building design upgrades could collectively “prevent 600 deaths, 1 million nonfatal injuries and 4,000 cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the long term.” Moreover, upgrading building standards would also generate more jobs—87,000 new long-term jobs, according to the NIBS report.

The report recommends various different long-term mitigation strategies, including demolishing flood-prone buildings, adding hurricane or tornado shelters in affected areas, and replacing roofs and managing surrounding vegetation in order to minimize fire dangers.

You can read the full report by the National Institute of Building Sciences by clicking here.

About Author: David Wharton

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