Grim-faced U.S. volunteers sift through mud and rubble, searching for bodies after rockslides caused by a tropical storm destroyed the Mamayes barrio in Puerto Rico.

ronment. Unfortunately, comprehensive hazard andrisk assessments are not universally available.

The Committee recommends that state and local jurisdictions review, update, and improve their hazard and risk assessments with the assistance of the federal government and use this information in their decision-making processes. The Committee identified four means for improving the quality and availability of hazard and risk assessments:

  • the development of computerized multihazard geographic information systems that would make information traditionally stored on paper maps and charts and in books easily accessible to decision-makers,

  • research on the physical and biological factors that contribute to and cause natural disasters,

  • research on the social factors that govern human response to natural hazards, and

  • research on technological and societal strategies for disaster reduction.

Widespread public awareness and education is fundamental to reducing loss of life, personal injuries, and property damage from natural disasters. Yet people in many sectors of society remain unaware of the natural hazards they face and the actions they can take to protect themselves and their property. Special efforts should be made to reach sectors of the population that may not have access to traditional education and information media — small children, the elderly, people with disabilities, and those who do not speak English. Because public officials and the news media have crucial responsibilities for disseminating information during a disaster, procedures for their cooperation need to be established in advance of an event.

The Committee recommends that communitywide awareness and education programs about natural disasters be made a national priority. These programs should address the needs of individuals and communities in all the activities and locations where they could be subject to natural disasters:

  • at home, provide information on household survival plans, precautionary measures, and emergency supplies;

  • in the community, promote planning, education, and preparedness action by hospitals, churches, schools, businesses, neighborhood organizations, and other groups;

  • in schools, protect children and their families through information on natural disaster preparedness, warnings, and response;

  • in the workplace, ensure safety and security of workers and business assets;

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