A disaster cannot be predicted by when and
what the impact will be on the lives and properties affected. Parents that are
ensuring their children are safe from unsuspected dangers is a parent
implementing mitigation steps. Through developing actionable plans based on
risk analysis that will make the child safe. Through risk analysis, mitigation
can be achieved. The analysis results in information which gives a foundation
for mitigation techniques that reduce the risks. Mitigation is defined in
Introduction to Emergency Management by George Haddow, as “a sustained action
to reduce or eliminate the risks to people and property from such hazards and
their effects” (Haddow, 2017, p. 79). The intent of
mitigation is to reduce the harm that is caused by a disaster. Effective
mitigation can greatly reduce the damage from a disaster, reconstruction
efforts, and repeated damage. When risks have been identified, some can be
readily eliminated or reduced. Most risks are more difficult to mitigate, such
as high-impact, low-probability risks (National Research Council, 2005). Mitigation uses
tools such as land-use planning, structural controls, and financial incentives.
Mitigation starts when all citizens understand their role and doing their part
when a disaster does occur.
Mitigation is vastly different from that of
other emergency management disciplines. Mitigation looks at the long-term
solution to reducing risks, rather than preparing for a hazard, in the
immediate response to hazards, or the short-term recovery from an event (Haddow, 2017). Mitigation also
differs from other emergency management disciplines with the participation and
support from other players outside of the emergency management circle.
“Mitigation involves land-use planners; construction and building officials,
both public and private; business owners; insurance companies; community
leaders; and politicians” (Haddow, 2017, p. 80). First responder
skills are different from the skills and tools used for mitigation, such as
marketing and public relations, consensus building, and political acumen.
Mitigation is commonly not considered as a part of the emergency phase of a
disaster or as part of emergency planning as in preparedness (FEMA, n.d.).
Mitigation is a term used for reducing or eliminating the impact or risks to
people and property from varying hazards. The most substantial funding
opportunities for mitigation occurs after the disaster happens.
Mitigation programs are the most fruitful when they are embraced at the
local level where most choices about improvement are made (FEMA, n.d.).
In mitigation, land-use planning is used to help promote risk reduction with
different options. This includes environmental review, easements, storm water
management, acquisition, annexation, and floodplain management plans (FEMA, n.d., p. 3). This tool was one
of the first used in order to stregnthen mitigation. Property acquisition,
moving property out of the way of harm, is the most effective of land-use
planning, however, it is the costliest. In 1993, after the Midwest Floods, FEMA
and Congress worked together to make property acquisition more affordable
through a substantial increase in funding (FEMA, n.d., p. 3). Although land-use planning is a less
expensive mitigation tool, the land cannot be completely protected from any and
Structural controls more often than not have
been utilized to ensure existing development. In doing so, they can have both
positive and negative impacts on the regions they are not ensuring. Structural
controls are used to control the risk, not reduce it. The levee is the most
common form of structural control (FEMA, n.d., p. 5). The levees were designed and built as
flood control structures. They are a part of the infrastructure of the United States.
The 1993 Midwest flood showed how structural controls can lose control then
nature takes over. Structural controls can be overtopped and breached. These
controls give a sense of safety that is often false, in turn promoting an
increase in developments and compounding the hazards. Currently, new designs
are being considered and efforts have begun to acquire structures built behind
levees. Other structural controls, such as seawalls, breakwaters, and jetties,
are meant to provide a stabilized beach or reduce the waves impact. Although
these structures provide protection in one area, they increase the damage in
The financial incentives tool is a rising
area for advancing mitigation. Among the approaches being utilized by
localities to decrease dangers are “creating special tax assessments, passing
tax increases or bonds to pay for mitigation, offering relocation assistance,
and targeting federal community development or renewal grant funds for
mitigation” (Haddow, 2017, p. 90). The National Flood
Insurance Program (NFIP) is considered to be one of the most effective
mitigation programs ever made. Congress made the NFIP in reaction to the
damages from serious storms and inland flooding and the rising costs of
catastrophe help after these floods (Haddow, 2017, p. 92). The Community
Development Block Grant (CDBG) program in the Department of Housing and Urban
Development (HUD) have been using their funding to support efforts of property
acquisition and relocation. “Other Federal programs of the Small Business
Administration (SBA) and the Economic Development Administration provide
financial incentives for mitigation” (FEMA, n.d., p. 4). Although the
individuals within a community are able to earn a small income from the
financial incentives, it is not a permanent solution to mitigation.
As with most situations, there is always some
kind of impediments. With mitigation, there are a few, some of the reasons are
a denial of the risk, political will, costs and a lack of funding, and taking
on the issue. Individuals are willing to ignore a fact that they should be
involved in their community mitigation planning, believing that those disasters
could never happen to them (United States Government Accountability Office,
When Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, it caused
over 1,800 individuals to lose their lives. After warnings about the weather were
announced, many decided to stay because of a lack of transportation. Others
stayed because they thought it was not anything serious and they had nothing to
worry about since there was a history of false alarms (Moynihan, 2009, p. 4).
Mitigation is a long-term benefit. The United
States political system usually only focuses on the short-term rewards.
“Mitigation strategies and actions require political vision and will. Local
elected officials are the individuals who have to promote, market, and endorse
adopting risk reduction as a goal” (Haddow, 2017, p. 104). Many politicians
fail to adapt to having a vision or goal in promoting risk reduction because of
the priorities of other agendas. It became incredibly important to begin a war
after the attack on September 11, 2001. The federal government was more focused
on funding a war on terrorism that was local and overseas. With this oversight,
mitigation countermeasures against natural disasters lessened within the United
States. Hurricane Katrina had failed levees and was completely unprepared for
the devastation because the focus was not on natural disasters.
The Fifth Amendment to the United States
Constitution prohibits the taking of property without just compensation.
“Mitigation costs money. Most mitigation of new structures or development can
be passed on to the builder or buyer without much notice” (Haddow, 2017, p. 104). Individuals do not
want to spend money and not reap the benefits of that purchase. In Las Vegas,
Nevada the city floods every time it rains. This is because of a lack of proper
drainage within the city. Every year that it rains for more than a day, the
city is flooded. One rainstorm and the city is put on flash flood warnings.
Many buildings and properties have been destroyed by flood waters, yet the city
has done nothing to help mitigate this consistent hazard.
In conclusion, mitigation steps and efforts
need to be in place and validated consistently. There must be improved and
changes where it is necessary. Mitigation tools can be used for a smaller
impact of a disaster on property and life. Managing the mitigation tools in a
key to reducing the risks associated with a disaster. Government officials need
to be more proactive in the emergency management agencies.