USGS - science for a changing world

Open File Report 2007–1147

Prepared in cooperation with the Earth Observations Task Group of the Subcommittee for Disaster Reduction

Reducing Loss of Life and Property from Disasters: A Societal Benefit Area of the Strategic Plan for U.S. Integrated Earth Observation System (IEOS)

By Rosalind L. Helz and John E. Gaynor

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Natural and technological disasters, such as hurricanes and other extreme weather events, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides and debris flows, wildland and urban–interface fires, floods, oil spills, and space–weather storms, impose a significant burden on society. Throughout the United States, disasters inflict many injuries and deaths, and cost the nation $20 billion each year (SDR, 2003). Disasters in other countries can affect U.S. assets and interests overseas (e.g. the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines, which effectively destroyed Clark Air Force Base). Also, because they have a disproportionate impact on developing countries, disasters are major barriers to sustainable development. Improving our ability to assess, predict, monitor, and respond to hazardous events is a key factor in reducing the occurrence and severity of disasters, and relies heavily on the use of information from well–designed and integrated Earth observation systems. To fully realize the benefits gained from the observation systems, the information derived must be disseminated through effective warning systems and networks, with products tailored to the needs of the end users and the general public.


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