Hazards Planning Research Center

Planning for Wildfires, Floods, Earthquakes, Landslides, Tsunamis, and Coastal Storms

Each type of natural disaster has a unique profile in terms of the types of damage that can be expected, best practices for mitigation, impacts on land-use patterns, and paths to recovery. While APA has worked on researching and developing best practices for both hazard mitigation and disaster recovery that apply universally, it has also been important to examine issues unique to specific disaster scenarios. APA's Hazards Planning Research Center thus seeks to develop research and policy related to issues specific to wildfires, floods, seismic hazards, winds, and coastal storms, among other possibilities for investigation and advocacy.

Planning for Wildfires (2005) was the product of collaboration between APA and Firewise, the national community training program supported by the USDA Forest Service and various U.S. Department of Interior agencies involved in wildfire issues at the federal level. The development of this report followed a previous project by APA's Research Department, completed in 2002, that examined the community-level behavioral impacts of the Firewise Communities training program, conducted under a contract with the Firewise Communities program. Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery and Reconstruction (1998) included a case study of recovery from the 1991 East Bay Hills wildfire in Oakland, California.

Subdivision Design in Flood Hazard Areas (1997) examined ways to protect development in new subdivisions from flood hazards. In addition, much of Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery and Reconstruction (1998) addressed issues specific to flooding, including the case study of Arnold, Missouri, in Chapter 8. That publication also included a case study of post-hurricane recovery and reconstruction in Chapter 10, looking at the Florida Panhandle experience following Hurricane Opal in 1995, and a case study of Plainfield, Illinois, following a massive tornado that struck in 1990.

Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery and Reconstruction (1998) also included a case study on recovery from the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake as it affected the California communities of Watsonville and Santa Cruz.

Losses from landslides are a large enough concern of the U.S. Geological Survey that the agency supported the preparation of a PAS Report addressing best practices with regard to mitigation. The resulting Landslide Hazards and Planning (2005) provided planners with a detailed handbook and case studies on a subject that produces more litigation than any other disaster type in the U.S.

While APA has not produced a specific project or report related to tsunamis, James Schwab, AICP, Manager of the Hazards Planning Research Center, nonetheless has been involved directly in providing technical assistance on planning for tsunami hazards. In May 2005, following the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 26, 2004, he was part of an eight-member U.S. team representing APA, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Institute of Architects, and the American Society of Landscape Architects, that traveled to Sri Lanka and subsequently provided recommendations concerning long-term reconstruction of the Sri Lankan coast to the Sri Lankan Institute of Architects, which had invited the team.