Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Will Your State Be Ready?

http://www.citylab.com/housing/2016/04/why-historic-preservation-needs-to-be-part0f disaster-planning/477318/?utm_source=nl_link-041116

The Orpheum Theater (1918) following Hurricane Katrina
New Orleans, Louisiana
AP Photo/Bill Haber
Hello Everyone:

Blogger is a little under the weather today because of spring allergies, nevertheless, Blogger must soldier on.

Historic landmarks pay a heavy price whenever natural disasters strike.  Take a look at the picture on the left of The Orpheum Theater in New Orleans, Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina.  When the Hurricane swept through the city, the resultant floods damaged 19th- and 20th-century buildings, causing some to fall.  More recently, Hurricane Sandy blew through New York City and parts of New Jersey, toppling monuments in the 1849 Evergreens Cemetery in Brooklyn and damaging the electrical systems of the Revolution-era Fraunes Tavern Museum in Manhattan.  In her recent article for CityLab, "Why Historic Preservation Needs to Be Part Disaster Planning," Linda Poon discusses why historic preservation strategies need to part of state disaster plans.

Coburn Free Library, September 2011
Oswego, New York
Photograph by Simon Hucko
Rising sea levels, dire predictions of increasingly extreme weather patterns, and the inevitable Big One looming over the West Coast, the United States is preparing itself for more natural disasters.  One would think that all fifty states would have a hazard-mitigation plan that incorporated historic preservation, right?  Alarmingly, this is not the case.  Linda Poon reports, "...a recent report [http://www.tandfonline.com] out the University of Colorado Denver and the University Kentucky finds that the U.S. may not be as prepared as it could be to protect historic sites from floods, wildfires, and tornadoes.  In fact, almost two thirds of all states lack historic preservation goals and strategies in their disaster plans."

Some of you may think, in case of a flood or other natural disaster, saving people comes first.  Blogger agrees with this sentiment but as Andrew Rumbach, a planning and design professor at the University of Colorado Denver and one of the study's authors, told Ms. Poon,

It's such an important issue because so many historic resources were built before modern flood regulations and modern building codes, so they're located in areas that are prone to these kinds of disasters...When you [saw] them in Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed thousands of historic resources.  It was a real loss.  The preservation community tried to save as much as they could and restore it back with historical integrity.

How Hurricane Sandy affected Fraunces Tavern
To analyze how well disaster management is incorporated into state historic preservation planning (and vice versa), Prof. Rumbach and his University of Kentucky colleague, historic preservation professor Douglas Appier, studied the historic preservation and hazard-mitigation strategies in all fifty states.  These documents are updated every five; outline the goals and methods that guide municipal governments and organizations when disaster strikes.  The results were just published in the current issue of  Journal of the American Planning Association, titled, "Building Community Resilience Through Historic Preservation," (Ibid)

Linda Poon writes, "In the first set of documents, on preservation, the researchers sought out word like 'emergency,' 'disaster,' and 'hazard.'  In the second, they looked to see if historic preservation was explicitly discussed, and whether a representative from the preservation department was included in the disaster-planning process."

Post-Hurricane Sandy Evergreens Cemetery
Brooklyn, New York
Professors Rumbach and Appier discovered that "...two-thirds of states explicitly mentioned emergency preparedness in their preservation plans, and 25 states included specific policies, initiatives, and plan objectives."  Shockingly, 60 percent of all states do not have a specific preservation strategy embedded in their hazard-mitigation plans.  Moreover, "...only 13 states included specific goals and strategies that mentioned protecting historic resources."

Be that as it may, both preservationists and disaster planners have mutual interests.  Protecting historic resources are important for disaster resilience.  How, you may ask?  Prof. Rumbach told Ms. Poon,

Not only are they important for community identity, and for people's sense of belonging, and why they value their communities, but they're also often very important for local economies.

Case in point, Ms. Poon observes in an aside, "New Orleans, famous for its historic attractions, drew more than 9.5 million tourists in 2014 and added $6.8 billion to its local economy."

Post-Hurricane Katrina Beauvoir
The retirement home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis
AP Photo/BillHaber
Biloxi, Mississippi

Even though municipalities may have their own preservation and disaster-mitigation plans, Prof. Appier said,

It's still important for states to have both in place.  The state isa guidance document, identifying areas that should be of concern or special focus...Then [the local agencies] could develop guidance for people who live in historic districts-what you can do to prevent damage to your house in case of flooding, and who they should contact.

Prof. Rumbach continues,

...state can be particularly helpful in small cities where local communities may not necessarily have the capacity to plan for natural disasters themselves.

The researchers made use of publicly available spatial data that enabled them to map put historic sites that vulnerable to flooding in: Kentucky, Florida, and Colorado.  The revealed "...15 percent of the 3,380 historic sites listed for Kentucky are located in the state's 100-year or 500-year floodplain, meaning the area has either a 1 percent or 0.2 percent chance, respectively, of being flooded on any given year."  About a quarter of the 1,700 sites in Florida are located inside similar floodplains.

Post-Hurricane Katrina home demolition
New Orleans, Louisiana
the nation.org
There is till some room for adjustment to the information.  Professors Andrew Rumbach and Douglas Appier determined that "only 6.8 percent of Colorado's 1,480 National Register sites are located in an area vulnerable to flooding, but that's in part because more than half the counties' floodplain data is not available through FEMA's National Flood Hazard Layer."

The silver lining in all this that are at least two federal programs that can assist states better connect to two areas of planning" the National Park Service' Certified Local Government Program (http://www.nps.gov) and the National Main Street Program (http://www.preservationnation.org).  These wonderful organizations act as partnerships between national and state agencies and local governments that hone in on preservation.  Linda Poon adds, "Communities that have these programs in place already have a good infrastructure to protect historic sites."

Professor Appier had this to say,

They can be very useful when we start thinking about how these two areas of planning [historic preservation and disaster planning] are to be [sic] linked...The know the historic resources, and the people who are involved in those two programs are publicly inclined and are willing to contribute their time for the betterment of the community.

Finally, Professor Rumbach said,

Our study is really looking forward into the future...and saying, 'What can communities who have a lot of historic resources that may be at risk from disaster can do to better plan for them?"

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