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'That’s big savings, very cost effective.' Flood, fire preparations could save billions

Our CO: What can be done before disaster strikes
Posted at 5:44 PM, Jan 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-13 19:59:56-05

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BOULDER, Colo. -- In our Colorado we see this all too often. When cities don't plan ahead for floods and wildfires, there’s a lot of expensive damage and sometimes people die.

That's why researchers on the University of Colorado Boulder are looking at what can be done before disaster strikes to save lives and money.

“These numbers they should help you make a decision about whether to mitigate or not to mitigate but they are not the whole picture,” said CU Research Professor Keith Porter. “You have to decide how much you can afford right now.”

According to the recent research, communities that act now to protect themselves from future hazards like earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and wildfires can save themselves as much as $11 for every $1 that they initially invest. The report also found that exceeding required building codes can also bring extra savings of $4 for every $1 spent.

“That’s big savings, very cost effective,” said Porter.

Prof. Porter said the challenge is convincing people to see short term investments paying off in the long run.

“We are going to use this benefit cost analysis to help construct and design these financial instruments to encourage mitigation,” said Porter.

We have seen the investment in natural hazard mitigation right here in our Colorado. A fuel break costing around $1 million to implement stopped the Buffalo Fire from burning through two subdivisions in Silverthorne in June 2018.

We’ve also seen when there is not investment. A flood tore through the city of Englewood in 2018 as well, killing one woman in its path. City leaders said funds were not allocated for storm drain upgrades.

Prof. Porter said the most interesting finding for the study was complying with current international building codes. Colorado is a home rule state, which means cities can select building codes themselves.

“If you are thinking about moving to a city that is on some old code or is not enforcing the code or is not bothering to update the code, that puts you at risk,” said Porter.

A risk he is hoping people will think and reflect on for their futures.

“How much are you willing to gamble that just going to code minimum is adequate?”

Prof. Porter said you need to start thinking now about what natural disasters you face where you live or work and what steps you should take to protect yourself and your home.