Whether caused by acts of nature, human error or even malevolence, disasters are an increasingly costly threat. Although most people assume they will not become victims, individual risk grows as homes and businesses encroach deeper into disaster-prone regions. That risk can be personal or structural – or both.
Research gives us hope. Early warning systems developed over the past several decades have prevented countless deaths and injuries. Structural impact is another matter. Despite improved building codes and practices, more people are building in risky locations. The rate of property destruction and rebuilding is increasing, and costs are rising. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina proved yet again just how much destruction disasters can cause.
Regardless of origin—from hurricanes to earthquakes, blackouts to terrorist attacks—disasters can seem overwhelming. Yet their impact need not be crippling. The National Science Foundation works with the Administration and other federal agencies in a coordinated effort to anticipate disasters and minimize their effects.