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Study Shows Pre-Disaster Mitigation Reaps Exponential Benefits

by Countable | 1.23.18

What’s the story?

The National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), a non-profit group authorized by Congress, has published a new report showing that for every federal dollar spent on disaster mitigation, meaning early preparation to lessen the impact of disasters on public infrastructure and private property, $6 is saved in future disaster costs.

Specifically, the study found that the $27 billion spent via mitigation grants over the last 23 years yielded $158 billion in societal savings.

This evidence flies in the face of the Trump administration’s budget priorities, but lines up with the stated goals of the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brock Long, reports Grist.org.

The NIBS report is timely, given that in 2017 the United States dealt with more federal disasters than ever before. Fires, hurricanes and flooding caused $306 billion in damage, dwarfing the previous highest year of impact, 2005, which saw damage of $100 billion.

Many experts point to the acceleration of climate change, which creates an environment increasingly prone to large-scale disasters, and predict that this is the new normal.

Yet the administration seeks to cut FEMA’s pre-disaster mitigation grants in half, end the Department of Housing and Urban Developments Community Block Grant Program, and shutter the Economic Development Administration, which combined administer the federal government’s mitigation programs and grants.

The study does not suggest that the federal government is the only entity that should shoulder the financial burden of disaster mitigation. Efforts must combine the resources and focus of federal and state governments, as well as private interests, in order to harness the full potential for return on investment.

The challenge, the study finds, is spurring investment in mitigation even if the long-term benefits exponentially exceed the short-term costs. However, a prior study published by NIBS in 2005, which found that the return on mitigation investment was 4:1, was used by Congress repeatedly in the intervening years to justify funding for mitigation.

Since it is Congress that formulates and approves the federal budget, and not the White House, it is your elected representatives who will decide whether or not to use this new information in formulating funding decisions.

What do you think?

Are your Members of Congress aware of this new information? Should they be? Should the federal government be investing in pre-disaster mitigation along with state and local governments, or should the burden be on state and local governments to primarily fund mitigation?

Tell us in the comments what you think, then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Creative Commons)

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