Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Disaster Management: Preliminary Findings

Research Questions:
Resiliency and rapid response to disasters are aided by development that is built with disaster management in mind.
  1. Should the EIS process examine whether applicant or agency actions adequately address disaster resiliency?
  2. In particular, should an assessment document discuss its impact on response, recovery, and preparedness?
  3. Should the EIS process be modified in the event of a state-declared emergency or disaster?
Stakeholder Interview Comments
Overwhelmingly, interviewees responded that the EIS should not addressing disaster resiliency or response, recovery, preparedness and that the environmental review system should be suspended during state-declared emergencies. These are the responsibility of Civil Defense, Planning, and the Counties, and are sufficiently covered through existing mechanisms such as long-range planning. Some acknowledged that addressing these issues in the EIS might be appropriate in certain contexts such as justifying a project, outlining evacuation procedures, or mitigation proposals. Similarly, many suggested some type of environmental review is necessary even during emergencies.

The following include most common suggestions for addressing disaster management in relation to EISs:
  1. Continue to have the present agencies responsible for disaster management, but have them provide risk assessments to preparers to include in EISs.
  2. Include response, recovery, and preparedness to the list of significant impacts and to mitigation measures.
  3. Better define “disaster” and “emergency” to have clear applicability, scope, and scale. Restrict these terms to only the response phase, not the recovery or rebuilding phases.
  4. Create some type of environmental review during emergencies to provide more oversight.
Stakeholder Workshop Results
Session 1: Review of Results
The review of findings workshop generally supported the interview responses, though more support was present in the review of findings for including disaster response in EISs where appropriate. The majority of responses for modifying the environment review system during emergencies supported keeping the present system, though some did support some type of review, or even adopting NEPA-like requirements for permanent post-disaster fixes.

Session 2: Discussion Group and Report Back
In discussion, participants considered the issue to be too big. If one were to include emergency response information, one should consider a “shelf-life” for any preparedness information included in an EIS. A better definition of a “state-declared emergency,” its scale, and scope is needed. Also, how long a “state-declared emergency” is in effect should be reviewed and clarified.

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