Risk Assessment and the Disaster Resistant University (DRU) Program: The University of Louisville Approach

August 2006 (VOL. 24, NO. 2)

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While state and local governments are required to complete a Hazard Mitigation Plan under the dictates of the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 (DMA 2000), universities are not required by that law to perform a similar planning and mitigation activity. FEMA’s Disaster Resistant University (DRU) program was intended to encourage and promote mitigation among institutions of higher learning. The University of Louisville received a DRU planning grant under the second, and what was to be the last round of grants, of the program, as it was phased out as a designated set-aside of planning and mitigation funding for universities. This paper describes the University of Louisville approach to creating a University Hazard Mitigation Plan and the unique elements of conducting a risk assessment and vulnerability analysis for the campus that mirrors similar efforts in state and local hazards planning. The project has been a collaborative effort on the part of the practitioner unit on campus responsible for day-to-day emergency preparedness and safety (the Department of Environmental and Health Safety) and one of the university’s research units, the Center for Hazards Research and Policy Development (CHR), an active research unit performing theoretical and applied hazards research projects at the local, regional and national level. The project has been successful in creating a method of risk assessment and classifying the exposure of structures and population. Key challenges have been access to data from various sources within the university and the ability to assess structural integrity from existing building inventory data. This paper concludes by identifying the need for meaningful risk assessment and more robust exposure models, and further suggests research issues that if addressed, would improve university disaster resilience.