The annals of human history have recorded a lot of natural disasters which prompted infrastructure decision support in some countries. In the most recent years, man has experienced episodes of natural calamities all over the world – hurricanes Sandy and Katrina in the US, earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, and typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, just to name a few.
These catastrophes not only affect the people who directly took the hit. Now, the reason why these force majeures are remembered is because they also have a great impact on society and the physical structure of the community that suffered the wrath of nature which comes in many forms.
These natural disasters affect critical infrastructures like transportation, water utilities, communication, energy, housing, health, and others.
These physical infrastructures are necessary elements of most economies. Regulatory authorities make rigid planning before urban and industrial infrastructure are approved and constructed.
Making sure that these public utilities are safe is the main priority of these implementing authorities as part of the infrastructure natural disaster risk management plan. To anyone’s mind, the question on how resilient are these buildings remains.
And although it may seem that the impact of these events is one-sided, that is, we only see the destruction of lives and public and private property in the news, the fact is, it can also go the other way around. Properly planned infrastructure can actually mitigate effects of these natural disasters.
For flood-prone areas, for example, the creation of dams, roads with proper drainage systems and other stormwater infrastructure are vital in order to moderate the onslaught of storm surges, water coming down from mountains, and water during incessant storm rains.
For earthquakes, engineers are already developing self-centering building systems in Japan, which is an earthquake prone country.
Infrastructure asset management should include risk options coming from earthquake engineering analysis of edifices in areas regularly hit by earthquakes. This would be a significant stride when it comes to the building and maintenance of bridges, commercial and housing infrastructures, and public utilities.
In order for an urban community to withstand these natural events, implementing authorities must make an infrastructure natural disaster risk management plan that is tailor-made for the needs of a specific area, whether a place is flood-prone, earthquake-prone, or hurricane prone.
Risk reduction strategies have a pivotal role in providing a systemic approach to disaster avoidance. As such, future investments must be made, not only in the core planning process in building infrastructure for disaster prevention but also in the appropriate implementation of rebuilding or rehabilitation schemes for existing public and private utilities.
As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. It is appropriate to have prompt rehabilitation or reconstruction action plans after a natural disaster destruction of critical infrastructure – but why rehabilitate when you can build assets that mitigate the effects of these natural calamities?