Poster Paper: How Do Different Types of Local Disaster Risk Mitigation Projects Relate to Community Resilience Outcomes?

Thursday, November 8, 2018
Exhibit Hall C - Exhibit Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Hyunjung Ji, University of Alabama

While natural disasters cannot be prevented, their adverse impacts can be reduced if advance action is taken to mitigate disaster risks and vulnerability. Disaster risk mitigation refers to any actions taken to reduce or eliminate the long-term risk to property and human life from natural disasters, such as retrofitting buildings, avoiding new development in vulnerable areas, and educating citizens about disaster preparedness systems. As communities have increasingly suffered from staggering impacts of natural disasters, disaster risk mitigation has become one of the important tasks for local governments worldwide.

Previous research has identified a diverse set of disaster risk mitigation measures (e.g., Godschalk, 2003; Twigg, 2015; UNISDR, 2005, 2015). However, only a few research has systematically examined implementation of disaster mitigation projects at the local level. We also have very little knowledge about how different types of disaster mitigation projects that are implemented at the local level relate to community resilience outcomes (e.g., reduced consequences following a disaster). Local governments’ efforts to mitigate disaster risk may vary significantly. For example, some local governments may focus on short-term mitigation projects to respond to their immediate concerns, whereas other local governments, taking a long-term perspective, may undertake a more proactive approaches to resolving fundamental risk factors in their communities. Indeed, even though FEMA has obligated $ 6 billion to support 12,003 hazard mitigation projects at the county level between 1993 and 2014, majority of funding has been spent for relatively simple and short-term projects, such as developing local mitigation plan, equipment purchase, and preparing safe rooms. Only few counties have implemented long-term disaster mitigation projects using FEMA grants, such as building localized flood control system, retrofitting structures, and education programs. Lack of empirical research examining the policy efficacy of the local mitigation projects is very problematic because empirical evidence is essential for policy makers to design risk mitigation policies in a manner that actually benefit communities.

This paper addresses the important question of how different types of local disaster risk mitigation projects relate to community resilience outcomes. For empirical analysis, we examine different types of mitigation projects implemented by 145 U.S. counties that experienced major Hurricanes in both 2005 and 2008. Using a difference-in-difference approach, we compare different patterns of property damages from hurricanes between counties that implemented mitigation projects and the counties in control group, and further estimate the varying impacts of the different mitigation treatments. Important implications are likely to arise from a systematic assessment of risk mitigation efforts at the local level, as these efforts may be closely related to variations in community resilience outcomes. Findings empirical evidence on varying impacts of local disaster mitigation projects will contribute to scholarship as well as practitioners as they will advance the policy debate toward a more productive discussion on how to design local mitigation projects for better community resilience outcomes.