The destructive nature of Hurricane Matthew—which resulted in hundreds of deaths in Haiti, dozens more in the US, and extensive damage still being assessed—was a test of strength in communications systems, infrastructure, and ultimately the resilience of communities.
In addition to Matthew, Hurricane Earl, Tropical Storm Fiona, Hurricane Gaston, Hurricane Hermine, and Tropical Storm Nicole are among the 14 named storms this Atlantic hurricane season—already more than 12 originally projected for the season, which extends into November.
The kind of devastation caused by storms like these is replicated elsewhere with losses increasing from tornadoes, floods, wildfires, excessive heat, and other costly and life-threatening extreme weather conditions.
From 2005-2015, extreme weather conditions resulted in the death of more than 6,500 people in the US alone. Since 2005, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has contributed more than $26 million nationwide toward disaster preparedness—and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development has spent about $1 billion in natural disaster resilience.
Scientists and urban planners are searching for ways to better help communities become more resilient so that they can prepare and recover more quickly when natural disasters occur.
Community disaster resiliency is broadly defined as the ability through policies, programs, and interventions to mitigate damage and quickly recover when disasters occur. Resiliency measures vary, and may include rates related to poverty, educational level, homeownership, and access to vehicles and telecommunications networks. Other measures include infrastructure density and the presence of hazard mitigation plans.
Laura A. Bakkensen, assistant professor in the School of Government and Public Policy at the University of Arizona, responds to four questions about natural disasters and the need to improve community resiliency.
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