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Mitigate the Impacts When Communities and Nature Collide

Natural hazards introduce potential dangers when naturally occurring environmental factors impact communities and the built environment. Wildfires, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, public health threats, blizzards, ice storms, tornados, volcanos, and hail are just a few examples of hazards that can have devastating effects when they occur in populated areas. Emergency preparedness professionals plan for and try to mitigate such events, but nature is not always predictable. For example, La Niña and El Niño events do not occur at regular intervals. However, when they happen, they can significantly increase or decrease the frequency and severity of tropical rainfall patterns, leading to extremes such as flooding, drought, hurricanes, tornados, and wildfires.

Moisture changes in the atmosphere have even altered tornado and other storm patterns, pushing hazards into areas that are not typically prone to or prepared for them. In addition, events are not uniform across the country. When an extreme event happens in one area, the opposite extreme often occurs elsewhere – severe drought versus flooding and excessive rainfall, or heatwave versus a deep freeze. Since no two natural hazards and no two communities are identical, there are countless scenarios that could occur when the two collide.

Fortunately, communities across the country continually plan for these events to mitigate the possible effects. In this May edition of the Domestic Preparedness Journal, preparedness professionals from the West Coast to the East Coast describe past and potential future hazards and steps communities can take to mitigate their effects. By developing strategies, employing a unity of effort, educating the public, building situational awareness, addressing vulnerabilities, and understanding the psychological component, communities will be better positioned to withstand the forces of nature and minimize the potentially devastating effects. Since natural hazards do not respect human-defined boundaries, it is critical for communities to know how to best protect lives and properties when hazards share the space within those boundaries.

 
Catherine L. Feinman

Catherine L. Feinman, M.A., joined Domestic Preparedness in January 2010. She has more than 35 years of publishing experience and currently serves as editor of the Domestic Preparedness Journal, DomesticPreparedness.com, and The Weekly Brief. She works with writers and other contributors to build and create new content that is relevant to the emergency preparedness, response, and recovery communities. She received a bachelor’s degree in International Business from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a master’s degree in Emergency and Disaster Management from American Military University.

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