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Finding a sensible balance for natural hazard mitigation with mathematical models
Date:4/30/2013

. "Much of the problem comes from the fact that formulating effective natural hazard policy involves using a complicated combination of geoscience, mathematics, and economics to analyze the problem and explore the costs and benefits of different options. In general, mitigation policies are chosen without this kind of analysis," says Stein. "The challenge is deciding how much mitigation is enough. Although our first instinct might be to protect ourselves as well as possible, resources used for hazard mitigation are not available for other needs. For example, does it make sense to spend billions of dollars building buildings in the central U.S. to the same level of earthquake resistance as in California, or would these funds do more good if used otherwise?"

The Japanese earthquake and tsunami in 2011 toppled seawalls 5-10 meters high. The seawalls being rebuilt are about 12 meters high, and would be expected to protect against large tsunamis expected every few hundred years. But critics argue that it would be more cost effective and efficient to focus on relocation and evacuation strategies for populations that may be affected by such tsunamis rather than building higher seawalls, especially in areas where the population is small and dwindling.

In this paper, Stein says, the authors set out to "find the amount of mitigationwhich could be the height of a seawall or the earthquake resistance of buildingsthat is best for society." The objective is to provide methods for authorities to use their limited resources in the best possible way in the face of uncertainty.

Selecting an optimum strategy, however, depends on estimating the expected value of damage. This, in turn, requires prediction of the probability of disasters.

It is still unknown whether to assume that the probability of a large earthquake on a fault line is constant with time (as routinely assumed in hazard planning) or whether the probability gets smaller after the last
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Contact: Karthika Muthukumaraswamy
karthika@siam.org
267-350-6383
Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics
Source:Eurekalert

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