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NIST Releases Draft Community Resilience Planning Guide for Public Review

April 27, 2015 Comments off

NIST Releases Draft Community Resilience Planning Guide for Public Review
Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology

The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today issued a draft guide to help communities plan for and act to keep windstorms, floods, earthquakes, sea-level rise, industrial mishaps and other hazards from inflicting disastrous consequences.

NIST is requesting public feedback on the draft Community Resilience Planning Guide for Buildings and Infrastructure, which Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Acting NIST Director Willie May unveiled during a workshop at Texas Southern University in Houston today.

The official first version of the guide will be released this fall and updated periodically as new building standards and research results become available and as communities gain experience using the guide and recommend improvements.

Increasing Concentrations of Property Values and Catastrophe Risk in the US

April 24, 2015 Comments off

Increasing Concentrations of Property Values and Catastrophe Risk in the US (PDF)
Source: Karen Clark & Company

Residential, commercial, and industrial property values in the US continue to increase faster than GDP growth and the general rate of inflation. According to KCC estimates, insured property values increased by nine percent from 2012 to 2014.

In aggregate, building values now exceed $40 trillion, and when contents and time element exposures are added in, estimated insured property values swell to over $90 trillion. Along with increasing values, there are highly concentrated pockets of exposure, particularly in regions vulnerable to natural catastrophes.

For example, tier one counties along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts account for over 17 percent of total exposure at $16 trillion. Six counties have over $1 trillion of exposure each and on a combined basis, account for more than 12 percent of the US total. One county—Los Angeles—accounts for over three percent of exposed property values.

One implication of increasing concentrations of property value is the higher probability of megacatastrophe losses. A major storm or earthquake has not occurred in a densely populated metropolitan area such as Galveston-Houston, Miami, or Los Angeles for decades.

This study shows that when a large magnitude event occurs in specific concentrated areas, the losses will be multiples of the PMLs (Probable Maximum Losses) the insurance industry has been using to manage risk and rating agencies and regulators have been using to monitor solvency. Insurers typically manage their potential catastrophe losses to the 100 year PMLs, but because of increasingly concentrated property values in several major metropolitan areas, the losses insurers will suffer from the 100 year event will greatly exceed their estimated 100 year PMLs.

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CRS — Water Resource Issues in the 114th Congress (February 11, 2015)

April 22, 2015 Comments off

Water Resource Issues in the 114th Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

The 114th Congress faces many water resource development, management, and protection issues. Congressional actions shape reinvestment in aging federal infrastructure (e.g., dams, locks, and levees) and federal and nonfederal investment in new infrastructure, such as water supply augmentation, hydropower projects, navigation improvements, and efforts to restore aquatic ecosystems. These issues often arise at the regional or local levels but frequently have a federal connection. Ongoing issues include competition over water, drought and flood responses and policies, competitiveness and efficiency of U.S. harbors and waterways, and innovative and alternative financing approaches. The 114th Congress also may continue oversight of operations of federal infrastructure during drought and low-flow conditions, past large-scale flooding issues (e.g., Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, Missouri and Mississippi River floods), and balancing hydropower generation, recreational use, and protection of threatened and endangered species. In addition to oversight, each Congress also provides appropriations for major federal water resource agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation).

CRS — Wildfire Management: Federal Funding and Related Statistics (February 4, 2015)

April 22, 2015 Comments off

Wildfire Management: Federal Funding and Related Statistics (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

Wildfires can have beneficial and harmful impacts on ecosystems (e.g., by reducing fuel loads, or by damaging communities and timber resources). These impacts are generally measured and discussed based on the priorities of humans in these ecosystems. Federal resources are typically deployed during wildfire season—an annual occurrence of intense wildfire activity typically running from summer into fall—to help manage wildfires and potentially minimize some of the impacts, including the loss of life and property. Approximately 3.6 million acres burned during the 2014 wildfire season, which was less than the 4.3 million acres burned in 2014 and the fewest acres burned since 2010. Acreage burned during the 2014 wildfire season was less than half of the 9.3 million acres burned in 2012, which was the third-largest acreage burned annually since 1960.

Federal funding for wildfire management is provided in the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill. The bill funds wildfire management at the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior, which are the two principal entities tasked with federal wildfire management. Federal wildfire response activities involve preparedness, suppression, fuel reduction, site rehabilitation, and more. More than $3.4 billion was appropriated for wildfire management in FY2015. The total wildfire management appropriations for 2014 were more than $3.9 billion and included $600 million for the Forest Service to reimburse wildfire transfers that occurred in FY2013.

UK — National Risk Register for Civil Emergencies – 2015 edition

April 8, 2015 Comments off

National Risk Register for Civil Emergencies – 2015 edition
Source: Cabinet Office

The National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies March 2015 edition has been published and provides an updated government assessment of the likelihood and potential impact of a range of different civil emergency risks (including naturally and accidentally occurring hazards and malicious threats) that may directly affect the UK over the next 5 years. It also provides information on how the UK government and local respondents such as emergency services prepare for these emergencies.

Members of the public, organisations and businesses wishing to be better prepared for emergencies may find the National Risk Register a useful reference document.

Insured losses from disasters below average in 2014 despite record number of natural catastrophe events, says Swiss Re sigma study

April 3, 2015 Comments off

Insured losses from disasters below average in 2014 despite record number of natural catastrophe events, says Swiss Re sigma study
Source: Swiss Re

  • Total global economic losses from natural catastrophes and man-made disasters were around USD 110 billion in 2014
  • This compares to global insured losses of about USD 35 billion in 2014, below the USD 64 billion-average of the last 10 years
  • There were 189 natural catastrophes worldwide last year, the highest on sigma records
  • Disasters claimed more than 12 700 lives in 2014, one of the lowest ever in a single year
  • Severe thunderstorm losses are trending upward – details in the special chapter of this sigma

About 70 Percent of Homes in Miami and Tampa Have an Emergency Kit; Rates Vary by Metro Area

April 2, 2015 Comments off

About 70 Percent of Homes in Miami and Tampa Have an Emergency Kit; Rates Vary by Metro Area
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

More than half, 51.5 percent, of U.S. homes have a prepared emergency evacuation kit, according to new metropolitan area-level American Housing Survey statistics released jointly today by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The level of preparedness varies by metro area, with about 70 percent of households in the Miami and Tampa, Fla., metro areas having emergency supplies readily available in the event of an evacuation. The Austin (Texas), Chicago and Minneapolis metro areas had among the lowest rate of homes with an emergency preparedness kit.

These statistics come from new disaster preparedness questions, one of four topics added to the 2013 American Housing Survey. The three other topics are community involvement, neighborhood characteristics and public transportation. The disaster preparedness questions examine, for example, how many households are prepared for emergency situations such as fire, terrorist attack or large-scale natural disaster.

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