New Report Says Hazard Planning Reduces Insured Losses from Disasters

November 21, 2002

Communities that incorporate natural disasters in their land use planning experience fewer insured losses than those that do not, according to a new report presented at the Institute for Business & Home Safety’s (IBHS) Annual Congress in New Orleans.

An analysis of IBHS data by Dr. Raymond Burby, professor of city and regional planning at the University of North Carolina, found that residential insured losses per capita were at least one-third higher in states that do not mandate hazard planning.

Dr. Burby reported that the mean insured residential loss per capita was $92 in states with no hazard planning requirements, while the mean insured loss per capita was $64 in states which mandate hazard plans.

The losses studied occurred as a result of 226 natural disasters in the U.S. over the seven-year period between Jan. 1, 1994 and Dec. 31, 2000 and do not include losses from earthquakes.

The difference was even more significant in metropolitan areas where the mean per capita insured residential losses were $155 in states that do not require hazard plans, while it was $86 in states where hazard planning is mandated.

“Communities that pay attention to natural hazards have lower insurance losses,” Dr. Burby said. “Unfortunately, in three-quarters of the counties in the United States, state governments do not mandate hazard planning.” He said only 10 states require hazard plans – Florida, Maryland, North and South Carolina (coastal areas), Colorado, California, Oregon, Nevada, Idaho and Arizona.

He further pointed out that many local governments do not have up-to-date land use plans and those plans have poor hazard-mitigation elements. “But, this situation can change with active state intervention,” Dr. Burby commented.

He cited an IBHS survey of local land use planners throughout the United States that reported community comprehensive land use plans fell short in disaster safety. The survey also found a consensus among land use planners that state mandates result in better hazard plans.

“Land use plans are a powerful tool that can be harnessed to bring about safer communities with a reduction in catastrophe losses,” Dr. Burby added.

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