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Sunday, February 25th, 2024

FEMA’s 12th annual National Preparedness Report reveals challenges of rising costs, climate change-related disasters

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Climate change is causing increased frequency and severity of disasters across the country, leading to rising costs that represent a collective challenge for all levels of government, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) latest National Preparedness Report.

“As the threats to our homeland continue to evolve, the Department of Homeland Security will continue to meet its mandate of identifying and mitigating our country’s security vulnerabilities,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said. “The annual National Preparedness Report helps us do exactly that. In outlining the current disaster risk and capability landscape, this report will guide critical Department work in the years ahead — from equipping communities with the resources and information necessary to prepare for modern homeland security threats, to improving our Departmental disaster response and recovery efforts.”

Now in its 12th year, the annual report looked at 2022 data specifically, along with decades-long trends, to assess ongoing community-level risks from large-scale disasters and cyber threats, along with gaps at the individual and household levels. It also found that the lack of building code adoption represented a threat to national resilience. That inconsistency, in particular, was cited as one of the most significant factors in compounding risk and the increase of costs from natural hazards, given that two-thirds of U.S. communities haven’t incorporated the latest building codes.

On the other hand, the report identified cyberattacks, pandemics and floods as communities’ most likely threats. Of those, cyberattacks and pandemics, along with earthquakes, represented the most stressful for one or more capabilities within those communities. In higher-risk areas, though, more people-oriented concerns, such as long-term housing, relocation assistance and community sheltering capabilities remained major concerns.

For individuals, the National Preparedness Report turned to the 2022 National Household Survey on Disaster Preparedness to note that 43 percent of households surveyed intended to prepare in the future, but hadn’t gotten around to it yet. At least 14 percent said they do not intend to prepare.

“The 2023 National Preparedness report makes one thing clear: We all have a part to play when it comes to making sure our communities are prepared for when disaster strikes,” FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said. “At FEMA, we’ve been working hard to target our preparedness efforts to make the biggest impact at the individual level. From our Ready Campaign’s focus on older adult preparedness to grants designed to help update building codes, I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done with our partners to fill some of the gaps identified in this year’s report and increase our nation’s resilience.”

In response to some of these concerns, FEMA made $1.8 billion for both Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) and Flood Mitigation Assistance grant programs in October, to help increase resilience to climate change impacts. Another $25 million was set aside for federally recognized tribes and $2 million for each state, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories to advance building code activities.

CISA also launched new campaigns this year to prepare communities for cyber disruptions and assist emergency managers with effective responses. For its national campaign, though, this year FEMA focused on individual preparedness.