2002 Denver Annual Meeting (October 27-30, 2002)

Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 2:40 PM


APPLEGATE, David, American Geol Institute, 4220 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22302-1502 and FOLGER, Peter F., American Geophysical Union, 2000 Florida Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009, applegate@agiweb.org

Congress has a history of only paying attention to the threat of natural hazards in the wake of a major disaster. Even then, the spike of interest wanes quickly and seldom yields a comprehensive approach to reducing the nation's vulnerability. Part of the problem stems from the fact that jurisdiction for hazard-related agencies is spread over dozens of committees and subcommittees.

One mechanism to provide a focal point is a caucus, an informal organization of senators and/or representatives with shared concerns. Caucuses range across a wide variety of subjects, some directed toward a highly specific goal (passage of a particular bill) and others with a broad mandate of awareness-building. The idea of forming a caucus on natural hazards emerged from the Public-Private Partnership 2000 forum series (http://www.usgs.gov/ppp2000) organized by the White House Subcommittee on Natural Disaster Reduction. Beginning in 1998, the American Geological Institute and American Geophysical Union took the lead in trying to create such a caucus.

Although there are many caucuses, successful ones share a common trait: a strong external constituency. Thus, the first step was to assemble a support network representing the many different facets of natural hazard loss reduction. Formed in 1999, the Natural Hazards Caucus Work Group(http://www.agiweb.org/workgroup) currently consists of societies representing scientists, engineers, emergency managers, and planners; university consortia; the American Red Cross; as well as entities from the insurance, banking, and housing sectors.

The caucus itself was established in the Senate the following year thanks to the leadership of Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) and Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), who serve as co-chairs. They have since been joined by 18 of their Senate colleagues. The caucus objectives include focusing greater congressional attention on the need to mitigate against natural hazards, fostering better land-use planning and optimized building codes, strengthening public and private support for hazards-oriented research, and supporting the implementation of new technologies. The work group supports the activities of the caucus, sponsoring briefings and developing white papers, fact sheets, and other materials for use in educating members of Congress and their constituents.