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NFPA provides resources through the Firewise Communities Program and Fire Adapted Communities initiative (both co-sponsored by the USDA Forest Service) to communities in high risk areas to help residents reduce their risk of wildfire damage to homes and property. NFPA is a global organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards. The views expressed on this blog reflect the personal opinion of the individual author and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of NFPA, its technical committees, or other constituent parts. In 2012, coastal flooding caused by Superstorm Sandy was blamed for a fire in the Breezy Point neighborhood in Queens, New York, that destroyed nearly 130 homes and damaged 50 others.
This warning comes from geologist Susan Kieffer, whose new book, The Dynamics of Disaster, makes a strong case for an all-hands-on-deck approach to disaster preparedness.
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The perfect venue for weddings, family celebrations, fundraising galas or corporate retreats. June 1, 2011 was my first day of work as an undergraduate research assistant on a study of New Hampshire politics. It was clear throughout the rebuilding process that the storm’s impact on my town was as much a function of local politics and social conditions as it was one of atmospheric circumstances and bad luck. I applied for a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) in 2013 to study local disaster policies in New Hampshire.
I also decided to limit my analysis to the local government level, due to its role as the “first on scene” in both preparedness and response scenarios (FEMA 2011). In order to answer my research questions, I broke them down into the three crucial components of the disaster decision-making process (see Fig. Due to the relatively small size of the sample population, all local emergency managers in Rockingham and Strafford counties were included.
In order to visualize the vulnerability of towns in Rockingham and Strafford Counties to various natural hazards, I compiled scientific data from government agencies and universities to create an interactive map of natural hazard risk factors. The map can serve as a tool for citizens and local policymakers who may be unaware of the hazards to which their communities are most vulnerable. For this part of my research, I designed and implemented a survey of local emergency management directors in Rockingham and Strafford Counties. In order to determine which questions to ask emergency management directors, I conducted a literature review of academic work and other publications on disaster mitigation policy and local governments. Further, the literature review revealed that the scientific data that is critical to achieving positive policy outcomes may play less of a role in the local decision-making processes than at higher levels of government. Based on these issues, I designed the survey to measure the weight which scientific data, citizen input, historical data, and other information were given in the decision-making process.
The survey results indicated that issues of local capacity and stakeholder proximity are, in fact, impacting disaster mitigation practices in Rockingham and Strafford County. Figure 5: A pie chart showing the distribution of responses by emergency managers regarding what they believe are the greatest challenges they face. Conversely, the use of scientific data in the decision-making process appears to be extremely limited in Rockingham and Strafford Counties (see Fig.
Given the public attitude that disasters, apart from the occasional snowstorm, won’t occur in a community is prominent in Rockingham and Strafford Counties, these trends may prove problematic for emergency management in this area.
In addition, the survey revealed that a majority of the emergency management directors in Rockingham and Strafford Counties also serve as the fire chief or police chief in their communities.
After reviewing the hazard mitigation plans in Rockingham and Strafford Counties, and my informal discussions with regional officials, it became clear that scientific data is actually well-used on the county and state levels. Future research regarding the role of regional organizations in disaster mitigation, especially the amount of input local leaders are given in the process when regional organizations are involved, would be valuable for state and federal agencies hoping to improve inter-governmental communication on disaster mitigation.
The overwhelming and seldom-questioned sense of, “That won’t happen here,” is rarely noticed until after something like a tornado or a flood takes place.
This project was formative for me as a social-scientist-to-be, and as someone whose life has been brushed by disaster. Tegan O’Neill is a University Honors Program student from Monson, Massachusetts, who will graduate from the University of New Hampshire in May 2014 with a degree in political science.
In addition to authoring and co-authoring over 70 articles, book chapters, working papers, and reports, VanDeveer co-edited six books, including, most recently, Comparative Environmental Politics (MIT Press 2012).
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Pets emergency preparedness american red cross, Emergency preparedness also applies to pets! American red cross st louis area chapter, American red cross celebrates 90 years of youth volunteers in september, the american red cross celebrates 90 years of significant contributions made by youth. Copyright © 2014 Special Gift, All trademarks are the property of the respective trademark owners. We deliver information and knowledge through codes and standards, research, training, and education, outreach and advocacy.


That's where the codes and standards community may come into play, says Kieffer in the latest edition of NFPA Journal. I got home to my apartment that afternoon, turned on the news to CNN, and saw my family’s home with a stop sign stuck through its fence.
The tornado itself occurred by chance, but the town’s level of preparedness, its institutional response to the disaster, and the differences in outcomes for affected citizens were the result of underlying social and political structures. My goal was to determine what shapes or impedes natural disaster preparedness at the local level. I chose to study Rockingham and Strafford Counties due to their high population densities and exposure to natural hazard risk factors (NHDHS, US Census Bureau). Local governments form the foundation of the United States’ disaster mitigation and emergency response paradigm. 2: A screenshot of the interactive map created, indicating different natural hazards in Rockingham and Strafford counties. I decided to take the most straightforward approach possible: by speaking directly with town government officials. Two issues discussed in the literature were stakeholder proximity, or the amount of access that citizens have to government decision-making processes, and local government capacity, which is the town’s ability to gather resources and mobilize actors to implement a policy. Recent scholarship suggests that scientific data plays a limited role in municipal decision-making processes due to the lack of funding for local data collection and the lack of scientific expertise among public administrators and officials (NHDHS 2013).
The survey’s design was based on similar polls of local-level public officials conducted by the University of Michigan’s Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy.
The survey reveals that citizen input has a significant impact on local natural disaster preparedness policies (see Fig. 3: A pie chart indicating the rank at which "citizen input" was placed in regard to impact on local natural disaster preparedness policies, according to surveys completed by emergency managers. 4: A pie chart indicating the rank at which "scientific data" was placed in regard to impact on local natural disaster preparedness policies, according to surveys completed by emergency managers. Moreover, as the natural hazard map illustrates, there is a significant chance that natural hazards such as wind gusts could cause damage in this area. While this may be helpful in integrating emergency management and disaster mitigation into the town’s everyday functions, it also places an enormous task on an already busy public official. State and regional leadership, offered by organizations such as the Rockingham Planning Commission, Strafford County Planning Commission, and Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission, is helping to compensate for the lack of capacity at the town level by collecting and providing scientific data that is used in each town’s hazard mitigation plan in Rockingham and Strafford Counties. However, while cooperation between levels of government seems to be contributing to science-based mitigation policies in Rockingham and Strafford Counties, the survey results indicate that implementation of these policies at the town level is still limited by public outlook and funding.
It is only after the storm that this feeling is replaced with, “How on earth did we not see this coming?” Despite the fact that natural disasters are more severe and occurring more frequently than ever before, many people refuse to accept the possibility that one could happen in their own backyard. It gave me an opportunity to improve my mapping skills, gain experience with survey methodology and implementation, and to address the issue of disaster mitigation, which is extremely important to me personally.
New Hampshire Department of Homeland Security and Emergency                Management, Hazard Mitigation?Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan Update 2013               Appendix F: Threat and Hazard Mitigation Assessment. After her hometown was struck by a tornado in 2011, Tegan was inspired to research local policy on nature disaster preparedness and was awarded a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) to do so in 2013.
VanDeveer is professor and chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of New Hampshire.
However, the key to this strong historical story is the underlying theme that no matter how noble the cause war is hell on not just the combatants, but the loved ones waiting behind for news that those they cherish still live. At UNH, I analyzed exit polling, mapped demographic changes, and learned about the research process. When the following school year began, I started to focus on learning about the policy surrounding natural disaster preparedness and response. The central questions that my research was designed to address were: how are local disaster mitigation policies made and what are the consequences of this decision-making process?
Further, my initial review of the academic literature related to disaster mitigation revealed that the historic communities located along rivers and the coastline in these counties were particularly vulnerable to natural hazards. This is to say that, while state and federal governments provide guidelines and occasional support for mitigation projects, towns and cities are ultimately responsible for both the long term planning and first response in the event of a disaster. The hazards I mapped included earthquakes, hurricanes and tropical storms, high velocity winds, and flooding. 2) of the mapping tool shows where the floodplains (orange) and areas of dense development (dark blue) overlap. The goal of the survey was to gather information regarding the sources of information that shape natural hazard mitigation policy on the local level, and what barriers, if any, exist to implementing mitigation practices. The smaller scale of local governments and the responsiveness of local governments to citizen input present potential challenges for local leaders in preparing for disasters. Disaster governance that is not data-driven can result in gaps where unlikely, but plausible events are ignored and changes in environmental risk are not considered. After drafting several sets of survey questions, I worked with my mentor to finalize a survey that included ten questions. The highest percentage of emergency managers listed "citizen input" as having the largest impact. The percentage of emergency managers to rank "scientific data" as having a large impact is lower. Only 12% of emergency managers rank scientific data as the first or second most important sources of information. Emergency managers in this area are faced with the challenge of communicating the reality of natural hazards despite the public tendency to underestimate or ignore them. Further, this dual role creates a bargaining problem for the emergency manager, who cannot vie for funds for one aspect of his or her job without necessarily reducing funds for the other. Further, the regional commissions facilitate communication between the local, state and federal levels to ensure that these hazard mitigation policies are written and updated every three to four years.


This data highlights the challenges that citizens’ attitudes toward natural hazards and limitations in local government capacity create for emergency managers.
The problem with mitigation at the local level, where government is the most responsive, is that this reluctance to accept the possibility of a disaster has a direct impact on the degree to which a community is prepared.
I plan on continuing to research disaster mitigation and response as a graduate student next year because I believe that scholarship in this field can help remove barriers to preparedness.
She chose to study the New Hampshire seacoast region because it is an area that has a significant risk factor but has not experienced a major natural disaster in recent years. His research interests include international environmental policymaking and its domestic impacts, comparative environmental politics, connections between environmental and security issues, the roles of expertise in policy making, and the global politics of consumption and environmental and humanitarian degradation.  As such, it was a natural fit for VanDeveer to serve as Tegan’s mentor. The storm had ripped through the historic downtown area, devastating my house and dozens of others. It didn’t take long to begin to view the recovery process through a researcher’s lens, and to start thinking of ways in which better information could address the issues towns face when a natural disaster strikes. For the purposes of this research, disaster mitigation policy was defined as any government undertaking aimed at reducing the impacts of a potential natural disaster.
Newmarket, New Hampshire, for example, has a densely developed downtown area along the Lamprey river floodplains. Local governments are arguably the most important factor in the success or failure of disaster mitigation in the United States (FEMA 2011). I was able to “georeference,” or illustrate these hazards in a spatial context, because the probabilities of their occurrence are based primarily on location.
By clicking on Newmarket, the panel to the right allows the user to view the probabilities that several types of natural disasters will occur in the next fifty years, based on scientific studies conducted by different government agencies and research universities. Municipal governments operate with fewer resources and fewer leaders, and are more responsive to citizens’ input than higher levels of government. The first three questions asked about how long the respondent has served as emergency management director, and how and when they participated in mitigation policymaking.
67% of emergency management directors reported citizen input to be the most important or equal to the most important source of input in forming disaster policies. 37% of Emergency managers consider scientific data to be equal to all other sources of information used in the planning process. In other words, the police chief who is also the emergency manager is faced with the difficulty of bargaining for funds for new police cars and backup generators at the same time.
The field of disaster studies is still relatively new, and new data provides important insights into the reality of local mitigation efforts. I would like to recognize the incredible guidance provided throughout this process by my mentor, Professor Stacy VanDeveer. Tegan learned that local disaster mitigation is influenced by town politics and individual attitudes, more than by scientifically measured risks and conditions. Our community was fortunate: no lives were lost as a direct result of the storm and there were few injuries.
Understanding the modes of decision-making that lead to disaster preparedness policies can help explain the degree to which communities are prepared to deal with the impacts of natural hazards.
The scientific studies that provided the data I used measured probabilities for specific zip codes or towns, and as a result were “map-able.” I was able to incorporate FEMA’s maps of flood zones as well. The chance of hurricane force gusts occurring in Newmarket within fifty years, for example, is 42.5%. The next three questions addressed the sources of information used in this policymaking process, asking respondents to rank sources of information, including citizen input, scientific data from government and public organizations, and historical data, in order from most-used to least-used.
In addition, this study could not have taken shape without the participation and support of local emergency management directors. She found this project to be enjoyable in that it allowed her to engage with an excellent group of public officials, citizens, and regional personnel. If my community, for example, had relied on scientific data about natural hazards rather than a community-wide assumption that “tornados don’t happen in Massachusetts,” we would have had a very different disaster preparedness policy. Other hazards, including tornados, wildfire threats, and drought, are far less predictable based on location and are much more dependent on unpredictable events.
I also included a question regarding the “greatest challenges” to disaster mitigation that emergency managers faced in their communities. I am also extremely thankful for the support of the Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research, and the generous contributions from donors such as Mr.
Tegan chose to submit to Inquiry because her own brush with disaster made this topic very important to her, and she hopes that her findings can help the New Hampshire seacoast region.
In addition, I wanted to build and publish an interactive natural hazards map to help citizens and policymakers in New Hampshire easily access scientific data about their local risk factors.
In order to provide access to information regarding this group of hazards, I provided links to historical studies and current threat levels. In addition, I included one question about any additional public offices or roles the emergency management director may hold in the town.
The project reinforced her belief that disaster mitigation is an underrated part of community life and helped her to develop analytical and research skills, which will serve her in future work in this field.
I then used Tilemill, another open-source mapping platform, to build interactivity and to host this map on the internet.
Elizabeth Lunt Knowles (my sponsors), that help students like me conduct research through programs like the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF).Finally, I would like to thank my family for being the resilient, hard-working, and generally fantastic people that inspired this research and supported me every step of the way.
After graduation, Tegan will enter a master’s program in political science, and hopes to work with international development organizations to help developing communities prepare for and rebuild after natural disasters.



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