By Jim Mullen

I have observed the renewal of a “debate” of sorts that seems to preoccupy some emergency management academics and practitioners: aren’t most disasters man- made and not ”natural?” -an interesting proposition if there weren’t more pragmatic concerns for emergency managers. We could trace our problems all the way back to the Original Sin, but I prefer focusing on mitigating our hazard vulnerabilities.

Speaking recently to University of Washington graduate students about hazard mitigation, I described Seattle Project Impact’s (SPI) success at illuminating the benefits of confronting known hazards (earthquake in Seattle) through a grass roots, whole-community planning and implementation effort. SPI promoted residential home retrofits, combined with non-structural mitigation within the home, a school retrofit program (46 schools) that during the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake demonstrated that lives could be saved by timely hazard mitigation, sponsored mapping of Seattle’s landslide and seismic hazards, and designed a Disaster Resistant Business Toolkit for businesses that incorporated preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery information to aid businesses to sustain themselves, and their employees and customers, post-disaster. Debating “causation” was an unnecessary distraction. We had practical problems to address. It would have been professionally “sinful” to allow a theoretical “causation” argument to sidetrack us.