Assessing Federal Research and Development for Hazard Loss Reduction

By Charles Meade; Megan Abbott | Go to book overview

SUMMARY

In recent decades, the United States has experienced a decline in the numbers of lives lost due to natural hazards such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and droughts. At the same time, the associated costs of these events are escalating. Between 1978 and 1989, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) paid out about $7 billion in disaster relief funds. In the next dozen years, however, payouts increased almost fivefold, to over $39 billion.1

The primary cause of the rise in losses appears to be the growing population in areas that are vulnerable to natural hazards. Demographic changes, most dramatically, the mass human migration to coastal and other high-risk areas, have made hazards increasingly costly events—the more people and property in vulnerable areas, the more hazard damages. In addition, these growing high-concentration pockets of both people and property contribute to an escalation in the complexity of the nation's infrastructure—public utilities, critical facilities, transportation systems, communications networks, the built environment. As the density of the infrastructure increases, particularly in urban areas, the potential losses from natural hazards become greater still.

Because of the heavy financial burden imposed by these losses across all sectors of the economy, pressure on the federal government to act quickly and effectively to “solve” the problem has been growing. With this motivation, the federal strategy to address the hazard loss problem takes many forms, from providing disaster relief to assisting in the regulation of private insurance to encouraging mitigation efforts through various incentives. A key weapon in the federal government's arsenal is its support of research and development (R&D). Specifically, it funds work carried out by the research community to improve understanding of, preparation for, and response to hazards and their impacts.


PURPOSE OF THE STUDY

To formulate a better understanding of the role of government-sponsored R&D in the nation's efforts to reduce hazard losses, the Office of Science and Technology

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1
These amounts are in fiscal year (FY) 2001 dollars. According to the General Accounting Office (GAO), this rise is attributable to both a “number of large, costly disasters” and the fact that “activities eligible for federal assistance have increased” (GAO, 2002).

-xi-

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Assessing Federal Research and Development for Hazard Loss Reduction
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Preface iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures vii
  • Tables ix
  • Summary xi
  • Acronyms xvii
  • Chapter One - Introduction and Background 1
  • Chapter Two - Quantifying R&d for Hazard Loss Reduction 11
  • Chapter Three - Characterizing the R&d Effort 27
  • Chapter Four - The Policy Challenge for Hazard Loss R&d 35
  • Chapter Five - Summary and Conclusions 51
  • Appendix - Sample Radius Record 59
  • References 61
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