Preparations for terrorist attacks and natural disasters linked, says University of Colorado prof

When asked how the Sept. 11 attacks affected the people charged with responding to disasters, University of Colorado at Boulder sociology Professor Dennis Mileti went to a shelf in his office and brought back a serious cartoon.

The three characters in the cartoon are labeled "bioterrorism," "dirty bomb" and "natural hazards." The natural hazards character representing events such as hurricanes, earthquakes and floods is saying to the other two: "Welcome to the club."

And that's exactly what's happened since the attacks on the United States, Mileti said. The professionals charged with responding to terrorist attacks today are the same people who have been charged with responding to disasters of any sort for decades: firefighters, police officers, emergency managers, planners, engineers, insurers and government officials.

Sept. 11 altered the focus and scope of the CU-Boulder Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, of which Mileti is director. The keynote speaker at the center's 27th annual international workshop on disasters last July was the senior director for response and recovery of the U.S. Office of Homeland Security, who also oversaw federal recovery efforts in New York City after the attack on the World Trade Center.

The bottom line in limiting future deaths, injuries and damages is that "it's not about terrorism and it's not about earthquakes," Mileti said. "It's about disaster-resilient communities.

"What use is a terrorist-safe Los Angeles if everyone is killed in an earthquake?" he asks. "It's got to be a comprehensive approach."

Communities everywhere should consider all risks they potentially face and prepare a disaster plan that could be used to address any type of disaster, he said. In terms of physical impacts, terrorist attacks are indistinguishable from natural events such as great earthquakes and hurricanes.

Mileti headed a landmark study on natural haz

Contact: Dennis Mileti
University of Colorado at Boulder

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