Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Probabilistic Safety Assessment & Management (PSAM)
70 A Brief Comparison of Life Loss Risk Due to Floods, Hurricanes, Earthquakes and Terrorist Attacks (PSAM-0473)
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The occurrence of hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans in its wake have raised many difficult questions. Did the diversion of resources to the Department of Homeland Security hurt the ability of the nation to respond to Katrina? If so, why was this choice made by the political establishment? Should we as a society have expected such devastating results from a natural hazard like a hurricane? At the heart of these issues are questions about risk. What are the risks posed by different hazards? How do we balance preparation for natural and anthropogenic hazards? How are different hazards perceived?
This short paper briefly summarizes the risks to life from four hazards in the U.S. (tropical cyclones, earthquakes, floods, and terrorist attacks) based on historical data, and it presents issues that may cause public and political perception of risk to differ from what might be suggested by this historical data. This paper has similar aims as Jonkman (2005) in that it compares life loss from multiple hazards. However, unlike Jonkman (2005), this paper includes terrorist threats, focuses only on hazards to the U.S., and focuses more on exploring why public perception of risk may differ from the risk that might be implied from historical data. Only by considering both the quantitative assessment of risk and projections into the future together with the way in which individuals in society and their political leaders perceive these risks can society begin to have a meaningful discussion of preparing for future disasters.