FEMA’s New National Risk Index Provides Data Assessment Capability


FEMA has released a new National Risk Index that helps state and local jurisdictions prepare for and mitigate natural disasters. The index provides standardized risk data for mitigation planning and an overview of 18 different risk factors.

It is a free downloadable database that any jurisdiction can use due to its flexibility and scalability.

“Unlike traditional natural risk assessments, which address one hazard at a time and target only the most vulnerable areas, the index combines multiple hazards with socio-economic and built environmental factors to provide a holistic view of risks at the level nationwide, ”a FEMA spokesperson. written in an email.

Hennepin County, Minnesota, Eric Waage, director of emergency management, recently reviewed the index and said it was useful for most jurisdictions, especially smaller ones where emergency management is carried out by someone. One who has other duties and is the emergency manager as a second duty and doesn’t have the staff to do a lot of research.

“Our situation is different from most counties in Minnesota,” Waage said. “There are 87 counties in Minnesota and most of them have one person who is in charge of emergency management. For them, this kind of information is platinum-plus.

The index allows anyone to look up the address of a county and see the hazards associated with that location and how those hazards are likely to affect the area. This allows residents to take measures to best mitigate these effects.

“For example, if you find out that you are in an earthquake risk area, you may want to consider investing in structural reinforcement which will save a lot of time and money in earthquake repairs. of land, ”the FEMA spokesperson wrote. “Since the risk levels for different disasters are constantly changing, it is important to assess what the risk is for your area and what factors may increase or decrease that risk. Not only does this tool help individuals, but it helps policymakers and elected officials prioritize the projects most likely to alleviate the costs and suffering of disasters.

The only thing the index doesn’t do is take a forward look at climate change. “When you count losses by looking at the numbers, you look back,” Waage said. “We see it getting worse as you look to the future. We have this huge increase in precipitation that’s documented, and we get a lot more water throughout the year, saturating the ground and triggering the landslide that we didn’t have before. “

The FEMA spokesperson wrote that the index is a snapshot of current risks (as of October 2019) and that as the landscape changes the index will be updated to reflect those changes, but that it integrates climate data where current applicable data sets are available.

“Specifically, it includes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration high tide flood data from its sea level rise viewer,” the spokesperson wrote. “The methods for integrating climate change data into the index are described in the National Risk Index technical paper, available on the FEMA website.”


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