From earthquakes and hurricanes to wildfires and flooding, natural disasters can strike anywhere and at any time, costing millions of dollars of property loss and human suffering.
In light of this reality, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has co-sponsored the National Building Museum’s multi-media exhibition titled, Designing for Disaster, that opened on May 11 in Washington, D.C. This really amazing exhibit is actually a call-to-action for citizen preparedness and speaks to everyone from design professionals and local decision-makers, to homeowners and school kids, providing us with information on how and where to build communities that are safer and more disaster-resilient.
Several NFPA staff previewed the exhibit last week and were incredibly impressed at the work put into it. First, the exhibit is organized into galleries named by the destructive forces associated with each of the earth’s elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water. When you first enter the exhibit, you’ll see artifacts from past disasters such as a door marked after Hurricane Katrina, singed opera glasses from the Waldo Canyon wildfire, and stone fragments from the earthquake-damaged National Cathedral, that all express the destructive power of nature.
As part of the “fire” gallery, NFPA worked with National Building Museum staff to provide resources and information about how residents can work together to create more fire adapted communities and the principles behind having a Firewise home and neighborhood. NFPA is proud to be a part of this wonderful exhibit and as the curator of the exhibit, Chrysanthe Broikos, told our group, now is the perfect time to have this discussion.
All too often now we hear about tornados in the midwest, major hurricanes on the East Coast, large wildfires in the west or massive floods in the south. Citizens, however, don’t always know the questions to ask or how to get involved in helping address the issue of risk management. Sometimes, to be perfectly honest, we are not always ready to accept our own risk. This exhibit provides us with a framework to start the discussion. It forces us to realize that yes, we all are at risk from natural disasters, so we must accept this risk and ultimately we must take action. Read an interview with Ms. Broikos on the Designing for Disaster web page.
In this vein, all of the galleries include interactive quizzes that test your preparedness knowledge, action steps you can take around your home and community, short videos that feature experts who discuss the issues at hand (including wildfire's Jack Cohen, Research Physical Scientist, Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory, U.S. Forest Service), and case studies that point out a range of design and planning schemes, policies and more that can help to reduce risks before the next disaster.
If you find yourself in D.C., you must visit the Designing for Disaster exhibit, which runs through August 2015. It’s a great way, as citizens, to understand our role in lessening our risk for any kind of natural disaster, and to see that by working together, we can truly make a difference. Let us know what you think once you’re there.
For more information, visit the National Building Museum’s website. From what the great folks at the Building Musuem have told us, more information will be added to the Designing for Disaster web page so stay tuned and visit often. You can also follow their Mitigation Nation blog, which will feature guest posts from all of the sponsors, including NFPA, throughout the coming months. You’ll be glad you did.