disasters. One way to reduce the impacts of disasters on the nation and its communities is to invest in enhancing resilience.


FIGURE 1.1 Areas in the United States affected by large weather disasters in 2011. HVRI = Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute. Source: S. Cutter/HVRI.

The large amounts of money the federal government spends in responding to disasters are one indicator of the urgency of the need to increase the nation’s resilience to these events. These expenditures are borne by the entire nation and have been growing steadily for the last 60 years, both in absolute terms and on a per capita basis. For example, in 1953, the first year of presidential disaster declarations, federal expenditures totaled $20.9 million (adjusted to 2009 dollars) or $0.13 per person. In 2009, with many more disaster declarations, the federal government conservatively spent $1.4 billion on federal disaster relief or the equivalent of about $4.75 per person.3 The past two decades in particular show highly devastating and costly events to the nation’s treasury: the 1994 Northridge earthquake led to federal expenditures of $11.6 billion in disaster relief, relief costs for the 2001 World Trade Center attack totaled $13.3 billion, and Hurricane Katrina alone in 2005 led to more than $48.7 billion in federal disaster relief costs. Importantly, these expenditures do not even include insured property or business interruption losses, which


3 Computed from Federal Emergency Management Agency Presidential Disaster Declaration Data with totals adjusted to 2009 dollars.

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