Reducing Disaster Losses Through Better Information

Board on Natural Disasters

Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources

National Research Council

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
Washington, D.C.
1999



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--> Reducing Disaster Losses Through Better Information Board on Natural Disasters Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources National Research Council NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, D.C. 1999

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--> NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Washington, DC 20418 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. William A. Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I. Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts and Dr. William A. Wulf are chairman and vice-chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council. This study was supported by Contract no.50–DKNA–6–90040 between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for this project. International Standard Book Number 0-309-06339-6 Additional copies of this report are available from: National Academy Press, 2101 Constitution Ave., NW, Box 285, Washington, DC 20055 800-624-6242 202-334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area) http://www.nap.edu The cover was produced from a “strike probability map” published on the world wide web by the National Weather Service/National Hurricane Center showing Hurricane Mitch east of Honduras on October 26, 1998. Such maps typify information that might be made available via a disaster information network, displaying the probabilities that the center of a storm will strike an area in a specified timeframe. Cover art by Van Nguyen. Strike probability map courtesy of NOAA. Copyright 1999 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America.

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--> Board on Natural Disasters WILFRED D. IWAN, Chair, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena LLOYD S. CLUFF, Pacific Gas and Electric, San Francisco, California LUCILE M. JONES, U.S. Geological Survey, Pasadena, California JAMES F. KIMPEL, University of Oklahoma, Norman HOWARD C. KUNREUTHER, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia STEPHANIE H. MASAKI-SCHATZ, Rancho Palos Verdes, California JOANNE M. NIGG, University of Delaware, Newark DALLAS L. PECK, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia (retired) RICHARD J. ROTH, SR., Northbrook, Illinois HARVEY G. RYLAND, Institute for Business and Home Safety, Boston, Massachusetts ELLIS M. STANLEY, SR., City of Los Angeles, California FRANK H. THOMAS, Loudon, Tennessee Advisers JOHN D. HWANG, City of Los Angeles, California WALLACE JOSEPHSON, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C. KEVIN STEWART, Floodplain Management Program, Denver, Colorado L. THOMAS TOBIN, Tobin and Associates, Mill Valley, California Information Systems Experts ANDREW BRUZEWICZ, U.S.Army Corps of Engineers, Hanover, New Hampshire MICHAEL COLLINS, Ship Analytics International, North Stonington, Connecticut DAVID JONES, WeatherNet 4 and WRC Television, Washington, D.C. JAMES W. MORENTZ, Essential Technologies, Inc., Rockville, Maryland THOMAS J. SULLIVAN, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California Staff STEPHEN D. PARKER, Director PATRICIA A. JONES, Senior Program Assistant SUSAN E. SHERWIN, Consultant

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--> Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources GEORGE M. HORNBERGER, Chair, University of Virginia, Charlottesville PATRICK R. ATKINS, Aluminium Company of America, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania JERRY F. FRANKLIN, University of Washington, Seattle B. JOHN GARRICK, PLG, Inc., Newport Beach, California THOMAS E. GRAEDEL, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut DEBRA KNOPMAN, Progressive Foundation, Washington, D.C. KAI N. LEE, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts JUDITH E. MCDOWELL, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts RICHARD A. MESERVE, Covington & Burling, Washington, D.C. HUGH C. MORRIS, Canadian Global Change Program, Delta, British Columbia RAYMOND A. PRICE, Queen's University at Kingston, Ontario H. RONALD PULLIAM, University of Georgia, Athens THOMAS C. SCHELLING, University of Maryland, College Park VICTORIA J. TSCHINKEL, Landers and Parsons, Tallahassee, Florida E-AN ZEN, University of Maryland, College Park MARY LOU ZOBACK, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, California Staff ROBERT M. HAMILTON, Executive Director GREGORY H. SYMMES, Assistant Executive Director JEANETTE SPOON, Administrative and Financial Officer SANDI FITZPATRICK, Administrative Associate MARQUITA SMITH, Administrative Assistant/Technology Analyst

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--> Preface On February 26, 1997, Vice President Gore requested that federal departments and agencies evaluate the feasibility of a global disaster information network (GDIN) that would integrate and disseminate information to provide better warnings to emergency managers and thereby improve preparedness and response to natural or environmental disasters. This request led to establishment of the Disaster Information Task Force (DITF) to consider the needs and issues associated with such a system. The DITF focused on integration of all sources of information, public or private, and the linkage of those sources with disaster managers, with an initial emphasis on the United States because of the amount and diversity of activity here. Of particular interest was the potential for public-private partnerships in serving users' needs. The results of the DITF study are summarized in Harnessing Information and Technology for Disaster Management—The Global Disaster Information Network (DITF, 1997). Attention to the dissemination of information about natural disasters is motivated by the large losses caused by natural hazards in recent years and by the increasing vulnerability of people who have migrated into hazardous areas and by urbanization. It is generally believed that future losses can be significantly reduced through the application of advances in communications, remote sensing, and computing. Such capabilities make it possible to deliver crucial information to decision makers in a timely manner. The GDIN Transition Team, which was formed in January 1998 to follow the DITF, sought perspectives on the use of information for natural disaster loss reduction from experts in the public and private sectors, including state and local governments, insurance and other industries, and academia. To this end, it requested that the National Research Council's (NRC) Board on Natural Disasters (BOND) undertake an assessment of how a global or national disaster information network (DIN) could best provide appropriate information on natural disasters to public and private users of such information for purposes of natural disaster management and loss reduction. In response, through this effort the BOND undertook the task to:

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--> identify which types of data and information the federal agencies could make available with respect to earthquake, volcano, flood, drought, debris flow, wind, wildfire, and severe storm hazards in the United States; examine the kinds of tools and products that are available or could be developed to integrate information into forms most useful by property owners, local businesses, and community leaders who must make decisions concerning how to make communities more disaster resilient; and recommend ways, within the context of the proposed DIN, to improve the utilization of disaster information for decision makers. This assessment was carried out by the BOND itself rather than through a committee formed by the board. BOND is a multidisciplinary group of 12 members with expertise in the relevant geological, hydrological, and atmospheric hazards and related disaster management skills. It is responsible for organizing and overseeing the NRC's program on natural disaster issues. To carry out the study, the BOND conducted a three-day workshop in Washington, D.C., which served as the major information-gathering, deliberative, and report-drafting event for the study (see Appendix A). The workshop afforded the opportunity for discussions with federal officials engaged in DIN planning and other experts with experiences beyond those of the BOND members. In addition, it provided for extensive deliberations by BOND members. This report was drafted by BOND members at the workshop and subsequently refined. It presents an assessment of how natural disaster information can best be provided to public and private users for purposes of natural disaster mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. The BOND did not undertake to produce a detailed implementation plan, as that would be the responsibility of the GDIN Transition Team. Rather, this report offers strategic advice and guidance to the transition team. It should also be useful to federal officials engaged in planning and designing the proposed DIN and of interest to decision makers at other levels of government and in the private sector engaged in activities relevant to the communication of data and information in the interest of natural disaster loss reduction and the management of associated natural resources. The efforts of the BOND members, advisers, staff, and other workshop participants are greatly appreciated. Additionally, the board acknowledges and thanks several individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise to review the report, in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the authors and the NRC in making the published report as sound as

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--> possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study's charge. The content of the review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. The reviewers, to whom the board is very grateful, are Peter S. Anderson, Simon Fraser University; James P. Bruce, Ottawa, Canada; George M. Hornberger, University of Virginia; William Scherlis, Carnegie Mellon University; John C. Scott, Center for Public Service Communications; and Giles Whitcombe, Cambridge, Massachusetts. While the reviewers provided many constructive comments and suggestions, responsibility for the final content of the report rests solely with the BOND as the authoring body and the NRC. Finally, it should not be inferred from this report, with its focus on information dissemination, that existing data (even from the most advanced databases) could not benefit from technological advances in monitoring, more intense monitoring, and further research. For example, assessment of the threat posed by earthquakes is steadily evolving as new knowledge comes to light about the location and nature of active faults and the response of structures to strong ground shaking. Likewise, new understanding of flood risk is being generated by greater understanding of the paleohydrological record. Many other examples could be cited in support of the cautionary argument that any new dissemination effort must supplement and not replace current natural hazard and vulnerability data collection and analysis efforts. WILFRED D. IWAN, CHAIR BOARD ON NATURAL DISASTERS

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--> Contents     Executive Summary   1 1   Introduction   4 2   Information for Decision Making   12 3   Benefits and Challenges of an Integrated Disaster Information Network   25 4   Conclusions and Recommendations   38     References   45     Appendixes         A Workshop Agenda   49     B Federal Disaster Information Centers   52     C Biographies of BOND Members   58

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