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Reducing the Risks of Natural Hazards: A Program for the Future
USGS Customer Listening Session
November 3, 2004
Participants expressed considerable support for a natural hazards initiative, interest in continuing to work with USGS in planning, and appreciation for being invited to provide ideas at this early stage.
Director Groat reflected on the meeting saying that the most overarching theme he heard was the importance of facilitating better decision making, both at the local level and at almost any level where information about hazards will allow prudent decisions to be made. Thinking about decision-making will help guide the kind of science and products USGS and its partners need to provide. A decision focus also then clearly suggests the need for a process in formulating the program that includes the decision makers in helping us define what products they need. He also noted the emphasis on working in a risk-based framework.
He and the Executive Leadership Team also underscored several other key points:
- the emphasis on integrated approaches, both to doing the science to understand natural hazards and to create products that are useful to reduce risks;
- catastrophic natural events also affect natural systems and understanding what these effects are, particularly on systems that have been modified by humans, is an important contribution that can go along with understanding the impacts on humans and their infrastructure;
- hazards are more than just sudden onset, catastrophic events, with implications for the scope of any natural hazards initiative and for thinking about the program in risk management terms;
- decisions are being made all the time that increase people's vulnerability to natural hazards, so we should be thinking both about what natural hazards do to people per se and about what they do to people because the people are where the hazards are;
- improving predictive capabilities, not only when a catastrophic event may occur (which may be the most difficult scientific challenge) but also forecasting what will happen when it does happen so that decision makers have tools they can use to be ready to respond to an event regardless of when it happens;
- the importance of partnerships both with those who will use the information and tools produced and with those who will contribute their expertise and information to the program; and
- the importance of demonstrating the cost/benefit of this program, and planning it in perhaps a phased approach with some immediate outcomes with results that can serve to build the foundation for a more robust program.