Published online by Cambridge University Press: 14 September 2009
A comprehensive national loss inventory of natural hazards is the cornerstone for effective hazard and disaster mitigation. Despite federally demanded mitigation plans (Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000, DMA 2000) that are supposed to accurately represent the risks and losses, there still is no systematic and centralized inventory of all hazards and their associated losses (direct, indirect, insured, uninsured, etc.) – at least not in the public domain. While a variety of agencies and groups collect hazard-related information, differences among their goals result in a patchwork of data coverage. In lieu of a central, systematic, and comprehensive events and loss inventory, the Hazards Research Laboratory at the University of South Carolina developed the Spatial Hazard Events and Losses Database for the United States (SHELDUS). This database is currently the most comprehensive inventory for the United States. However, issues that emerged during its development – such as standardizing losses, spatial coverage, and so forth – stressed the need for a national clearinghouse for loss data. It is imperative that such a clearinghouse be developed to promote standardized guidelines for loss estimation, data compilation, and metadata standards. Otherwise, the development of a national loss inventory will remain deficient and the nation will continue to lack baseline data against which trends in hazardousness and the effectiveness of mitigation efforts could be evaluated.
There is significant uncertainty about the severity and magnitude of disaster losses in the United States.