Views from Kansas: Disaster mitigation pays
Editor’s Note: Views from Kansas is a regular feature that highlights editorials and other viewpoints from across the state.
Kansas has made smart infrastructure investments in disaster mitigation, saving the state well over a billion dollars, according to a study from The Pew Charitable Trusts.
For every dollar Kansas spent on disaster mitigation between 1993 and 2016, the state saved $6.81 in disaster recovery, the highest return of any state. Kansas and the federal government spent around $220 million on disaster mitigation in Kansas in the 23-year period studied. The report estimates those investments saved $1.5 billion.
Most funding for disaster mitigation comes from federal grant dollars, typically with some matching money from states and local communities. Disaster mitigation grants can fund a wide range of projects. In Kansas, most projects focus on preventing damage from flooding and high winds, and are administered by the Kansas Division of Emergency Management.
Such efforts included elevating or acquiring flood-prone buildings, retrofitting infrastructure, adding shutters and safe rooms, or reinforcing roofs and garage doors in residential, commercial, and public buildings.
Most disaster mitigation dollars are made available to communities after disasters. A previous report from The Pew Charitable Trusts recommended more dollars be available to pre-disaster mitigation programs, a wise move given the cost savings demonstrated by these programs.
Disaster mitigation saves lives, reduces injury and prevents property loss. Mitigation efforts can not only reduce the damage from natural disasters but can make recovery less time-consuming and costly. The costs of disasters come in the form of property damage, injury, business interruptions and insurance administrative fees.
Governments can save significant dollars otherwise spent on recovery efforts by investing in infrastructure.
Their efforts couldn’t come at a better time. Kansas has had the misfortune of multiple disasters since 1993. The state has suffered half a dozen significant floods in that time period and averaged nearly 100 annual tornadoes. A 2007 tornado outbreak included the tornado that destroyed about 95 percent of Greensburg.
With experts predicting more severe storms on the way, it’s a good time to invest more in disaster mitigation.
— Originally published in the Topeka Capital Journal