Local Mitigation Planning – Birmingham City

Mitigation refers to efforts taken to minimize loss of life and even property, done by reducing the impact of disasters. Some hazards are more priorities than others mainly because their effects on the legal, political and community domain are more adverse compared to the others. Birmingham is a city in Central Alabama. The city undergoes several hazards which include biological and environmental hazards among others. Its greatest is severe weather. The city experiences torrential rains and tornadoes. It is necessary to take steps to avoid further consequences from it while putting into consideration the cost implications and the impacts of these actions on the political, legal and community domain in the city.

Birmingham should consider the severe weather it experiences as a significant risk. The city receives heavy rains accompanied by tornadoes and flash floods.  Birmingham’s development and high-density population are the cause of the city’s vulnerability to such weather events. Water runoff is increased two to six times in an urban area compared to water flow in a natural terrain. As a result, parking lots and streets are converted to moving rivers and building ground floors fill with water (Birmingham, 2017). Repetitive cases of flooding have led to the loss of residential homes. Several neighbourhoods dwell in Village Creek’s floodplain and floodway. 4,574 residential dwellings, critical facilities, and 196 commercial structures are at risk of sudden flash floods (Birmingham, 2017). Natural disasters lead to billions of dollars in property damage and economic loss annually in Birmingham. The population keeps on shifting to areas prone to hazards, escalating further disaster-related losses.

The damage history arising from flooding has prompted Birmingham to seek authorization to come up with structural and non-structural solutions to resolve it (Bentham Science Publisher, 2012). The passing of the Water Resources Development Acts facilitated projects in the Village Creek Hazard Area. The funds received from Congress were $29.4 million, and $7.4 was contributed by the City of Birmingham (Birmingham, 2017). FEMA has also played a big part in funding mitigation projects in the city. One of the projects funded by FEMA is the acquisition projects. Acquisition of properties along the floodplain of Village Creek has been part of projects taken to control the weather hazards in Birmingham. Reports have shown that acquisition projects have helped to avoid losses of even more than $60 million since 1995. The savings represented more than 150% return on investment (Birmingham, 2017).

Acquisition costs shared by FEMA and the City of Birmingham have facilitated the avoidance of a direct loss amounting to $3.4 million. Losses avoided in the disasters are studied in order to measure the benefits from a mitigation project. Such studies bring out the financial savings appreciated by the community as a consequence of implementing such a mitigation project. Acquisition and relocation projects have proved to be very significant, seen in the savings made from repetitive flooding (Birmingham, 2017). Acquisition plan minimizes a community’s vulnerability to disaster losses. Most families are unable to pick up the pieces after flooding disasters, as most of them do not afford flooding insurance. Relocating them ensure that they live a flood free life.

Property acquisition is an advantage and real project as it offers both permanent and temporary vulnerability to future risks and damage from natural disasters (The Pew Charitable Trust, 2016). It also gives a chance for the local government to accomplish other flood management goals. Property acquisition reduces the cost of disaster funding and helps the community to achieve its aims, for example, affordable homes and open spaces with the risk of natural disasters (The Pew Charitable Trust, 2016). Property acquisition allows for preservation and maintenance of ecologically important wetlands and beach fronts.

Other examples of severe weather conditions include thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes. Thunderstorms usually occur during the summer. Supercell thunderstorms are the worst kind of storms as they are the strongest and most dangerous. Tornadoes are violently rotating columns of air descending from thunderstorm clouds to make contact with the ground. They can occur at any time of the year. Hurricanes, on the other hand, form over warm ocean waters (National Weather Service, 2017). The solution strategies for such extreme weather conditions include evacuations, contraflow and even strategies as simple as staying indoors. Use of lightning arresters can be put in place during cases of single cell tornadoes. Spreading awareness through the internet is also crucial (Dunbar, 2007). These solution strategies are usually successful as they are typically as simple as staying under the protection of one’s house, although sometimes policies like evacuation may lead to overbuilding of traffic. The acquisition strategy funded by USACE and the City of Birmingham had a total of $36,332,343 between 1989 and 1994 (Birmingham, 2017). The total loss avoided was $60,309,747 accounting for 166% of the total acquisition cost.

The community is both negatively and positively impacted by the mitigation project (National Weather Service, 2017). The community is positively impacted in that the members are given a chance to relocate and begin life in much safer areas. They can live a life free of the risk of natural disasters. The community is, however, separated from each other. People who have grown up close to each other are separated. They are forced to begin their social lives anew and leave their old friends. Through such strategies, the government can save money used to fund victims of natural disasters. The politics of the area is affected as its inhabitants have already moved (National Weather Service, 2017). The residents of Birmingham can minimize the legal costs that come with ensuring their houses against flooding. In case| the projects are not undertaken, it will result in more loss of property and life, and the local government will incur more costs funding the victims of natural disasters (Bentham Science Publisher, 2012). Residents will have to pay more for their flooding insurance, which they may not get full payment back, given their susceptibility to floods and natural disasters.

Mitigation of flooding and the impacts that come with it is possible in Birmingham. All the funding received from the Congress and the local government is enough to facilitate the mitigation project put in place. The acquisition project has proved to be successful over the years as reports have shown that there has been an extensive prevention of losses from natural disasters. The reduction of losses is regarding money and lives. Once the right steps have been completely identified, it will become possible to do away with the effects of natural disasters permanently.

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