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Pollution & HealthLatest Tool Helps Communities Prepare for Natural Hazards

Latest Tool Helps Communities Prepare for Natural Hazards

Latest Tool Helps Communities Prepare for Natural Hazards

Emily Halnon
|May 19, 2023

From wildfires across the West, to hurricanes within the Southeast, to floods in Texas, natural disasters are taking a toll on regions across the country. And climate change is increasing the frequency of devastating climate and weather events.

A newly revamped tool from the National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP) at Columbia University’s Climate School goals to assist communities higher prepare for natural hazards by providing data-driven information concerning the specific risks that different geographic areas face. The Natural Hazards Index map application is a publicly available, interactive map that illustrates the hazard level of 14 different natural hazards across america and Puerto Rico, including extreme heat, earthquakes, landslides, tornadoes, and floods. The tool was updated in partnership with the investment firm AllianceBernstein.

“We saw a have to develop a tool to assist people higher understand the risks that they face of their backyard,” said Jonathan Sury, the project lead and senior staff associate with the NCDP, which works to grasp and improve the capability to organize for, reply to, and get better from disasters. “Step one of preparedness is to know your risks.”

The recently revamped Natural Hazards Index enables you to zoom in to examine the climate, weather, and geological hazards in your individual backyard after which learn the right way to protect yourself.

The hope is that the tool can provide people and communities with the data they should develop strategic disaster response plans and speed up efforts to cut back risks and vulnerabilities. Sury expects this tool will likely be utilized by health departments, municipal groups, emergency management, households and individuals, academics, and others.

“This may help tell the story of a community and help raise awareness about what could occur on a neighborhood level,” Sury said. “It’s a preparedness tool — but this can also be a communications and advocacy tool for the vital mitigation activities and demanding investments that may also help address climate and weather vulnerabilities.”

The map offers each an aggregate illustration of the collective natural hazard risk inside a geographic area, specifically a census tract, and a breakdown of every of the fourteen specific hazards. It also provides links to beneficial information to guide each the small and huge actions that may also help households and regions reduce the chance of natural disasters and bolster their response plans. These recommendations could include reducing burnable materials around houses and businesses in fire-prone areas or investing in additional resilient infrastructure, which is usually a tougher sell due to the upfront cost.

NCDP first developed a version of this tool in 2016, but identified a chance to enhance it with more precise and localized data on the census tract level. The initial tool was limited by county-level mapping data, however the new edition allows users to hone in on more specific areas and see the differences that may exist inside a county — which could be significant.

“There’s so far more that could be gleaned while you’re in a position to zoom in on the sub-county level,” said Sury.

For instance, a neighborhood by a river may face significantly different flood risks than one on a hill. Or, the wildfire risk may vary drastically depending on where you’re throughout the urban wildland interface, he explains, very like the warmth index can change depending on how close you’re to the water.

The tool is designed to be very user-friendly. It presents information in a digestible manner that anyone can interact with and profit from.

But, the work that went into it was anything but easy, says Sury. The NCDP had a rigorous process for constructing this tool, which began by identifying which hazards to incorporate on the map. They did a literature review for every potential hazard and spoke with key experts to get their insights concerning the relevance of every respective risk and the very best data and indicators to make use of for every hazard. Additionally they collaborated with colleagues on the Columbia Climate School and balanced the input they received with the provision, reliability, and granularity of information. The map incorporates terabytes of information, which is such as trillions of bytes of information.

This tool was developed through a partnership with AllianceBernstein, a number one global investment management and research firm and longtime Climate School supporter. NCDP engaged with AllianceBernstein investors for greater than a 12 months to develop the tool by updating and refining datasets and identifying and adding latest data. AllianceBernstein saw a chance to make use of the tool to investigate and higher evaluate the varied risks to its investments.

“We see a number of potential to make use of this tool in our investment decisions — and it was clear that this partnership could also profit communities across the country,” said Patrick O’Connell, AllianceBernstein senior vice chairman and director of fixed income responsible investing research.

O’Connell points out that hardening infrastructure within the private sector can even offer an immense profit to the final population, as protecting factories and businesses can prevent disruptions to the provision chain, services, products, and jobs when a disaster hits.

“The private sector is such a critical player in disaster preparedness and response and recovery,” he said. “When corporations and native jurisdictions are investing in mitigation and preparedness, it’s so beneficial to all stakeholders.”

While the group is happy concerning the rollout of this phase of the appliance, they’re already fascinated with the subsequent iteration, which can incorporate climate change projections and social vulnerabilities. A variety of current data, like hurricane data, is predicated on today’s climate and doesn’t consider climate change. The group hopes to integrate improved data in the longer term to indicate how climate change will affect natural hazards and disasters.

“Now we have great baseline hazard information in these maps,” Sury said. “And now we would like to higher account for climate change projections and what future hazards will appear like on a warming planet.”


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