A large percentage of the nation's population is concentrated in areas prone to natural hazards, including hurricanes, extreme winds, storm surge, wildland fires, earthquakes, and tsunamis. U.S. communities also face a continuing threat from terrorist attacks, criminal activities, and technological accidents. Disasters in the United States are responsible for an estimated $55 billion in average annual costs in terms of lives lost, disruption of commerce and financial networks, properties destroyed, and the expense of mobilizing emergency response personnel and equipment.
The disaster resilience of our physical infrastructure and communities today is determined in large measure by the building standards, codes, and practices used when they were built. With few exceptions, these are oversimplified and inconsistent with respect to risk. As construction and rebuilding costs continue to rise, there is increasing recognition of the need to move from response and recovery to proactively identifying and mitigating hazards that pose the greatest threats.
The fundamental idea underpinning this initiative is that disaster resilience can be enhanced by developing a robust capability to predict and mitigate, rather than just respond to, the effects of natural and man-made hazards on the performance of complex structural systems.
Initiative funding in FY 2011 also will allow NIST to:
This initiative addresses five of the six Grand Challenges1 identified by the National Science and Technology Council for advancing science and technology to enhance the nation's disaster resilience. They are:
Specifically, this initiative will help prevent hazards (e.g., earthquakes, hurricanes, and community-scale fires) from becoming disasters by increasing the disaster resilience of the nation's buildings and infrastructure. The need for response and recovery will be minimized through proactive identification of hazards that pose threats, enabling action to mitigate their potential consequences. The expected impacts of this program will be achieved by:
1 National Science and Technology Council, Committee on Environmental and Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Disaster Reduction, Grand Challenges for Disaster Reduction, June 2005, p.21.