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Natural hazard mitigation saves: utilities and transportation infrastructure

31 Oct 2018


Natural hazards present significant risks to many communities across the United States. Fortunately, there are measures governments, building owners, developers, tenants and others can take to reduce the impacts of such events. These measures—commonly called mitigation—can result in significant savings in terms of safety, and prevent property loss and disruption of day-to-day life. The National Institute of Building Sciences (Institute) began a study in 2017 to update and expand upon its wellknown 2005 study, Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: An Independent Study to Assess the Future Savings from Mitigation Activities, which looked at the value of mitigation. In October 2018, the Institute released the second in a series of interim results. This latest report, Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: Utilities and Transportation Infrastructure, examines the potential benefits associated with mitigation investments made on select utility and transportation infrastructure.

Utility and Transportation Infrastructure Mitigation

The project team sought to use Economic Development Administration (EDA) grants to look at how the agency’s mitigation efforts to address four potential perils and four categories of utilities and infrastructure might benefit communities. Of the 859 EDA grants the project team reviewed, only 16 related to natural-hazard mitigation of utilities and transportation lifelines. Of these, the team acquired sufficient data to estimate benefit cost ratios (BCRs) for 12 mitigation investments. Because too few EDA grants were available to provide statistical value, the project team modified its objectives to analyze the grants as case studies. Since the grants did not represent all common retrofit measures (particularly in regard to earthquakes), the project team also analyzed potential mitigation measures to address the gaps.

The EDA grants studied by the project team included: • Flood mitigation for roads and railroads (five grants), with BCRs ranging between 2.0 and 11.0 for four grants, and one grant exhibiting a BCR of 0.2. • Flood mitigation for water and wastewater facilities (four grants), which produced BCRs between 1.3 and 31.0. • Wind mitigation for electric and telecommunications (two grants). These grants were estimated to produce BCRs of approximately 8.5. • Flood mitigation for electric and telecommunications (one grant). This grant produced an estimated BCR of 9.4. Note: While not statistically valid, these grants, when viewed as case studies, offer anecdotal evidence of the potential value of such types of mitigation.

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