The Pacific coast of the western U.S. is at risk from a range of geologic hazards, including volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunamis. It is becoming increasingly clear that hazard mitigation policies at both the state and local levels play a critical role in minimizing losses from natural disaster events. At the same time, the quality and execution of these policies by local governments vary widely within and between states. A primary factor limiting the effectiveness of many local policies is the absence of a solid factual foundation that incorporates geoscientific considerations in order to achieve policy goals. This study explores the role of local regulatory and developmental policies in protecting communities in the western U.S against geological hazards, with an emphasis on scientific foundations within local policies, and examines recommendations for improving hazard strategies. State and federal agency papers, local government reports, and a variety of professional journal articles serve as the basis for this analysis. The research suggests that state mitigation measures emphasizing pre-disaster policies have the potential to be most effective for minimizing losses and improving community resilience to recover from catastrophic geologic events. States with hazard mandates that lack clear enforcement powers for regional agencies, such as California, have a wider variation in local policy quality when compared to states that do, such as Oregon, whose detailed state mandate ensures that all jurisdictions must comply with stipulated hazard safety elements. States should aim to ensure that local jurisdictions are implementing both structural and non-structural mitigation measures. The effectiveness of mitigation strategies on the Pacific coast of the western U.S depends on the level of local and state collaboration. In particular, the effectiveness of local hazard planning reflects the quality and enforcement of state mitigation policies. Proactive policies instituted by local governments are an important tool for natural hazard mitigation and disaster prevention when done right. The variety of geological hazards on the west coast makes the mitigation policies of the region a useful framework for other areas of the U.S., with applications for developing physical and non-structural mitigation measures.
Peterson, Maddie, "The Intersection of Geoscience and Policy: An Examination of Local Geologic Hazard Mitigation Plans and State Policies in the Western United States" (2020). Academic Excellence Showcase Proceedings. 255.
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