The Japanese nuclear disaster and Hurricane Katrina both make clear that displaced persons can be a problem in the developed world, not only in the developing world. Large numbers of people may need to relocate for extended periods for reasons ranging from nuclear accidents to natural disasters to terrorism to climate change. Moreover, displaced persons who are not political refugees have few legal protections. This talk will: (1) highlight the fact that mass relocation can be a problem for the developed world; (2) review the impacts of such relocation events; (3) discuss characteristics that can lead relocation events to differ from each other; and (4) identify future research needs. The focus throughout is on the relocation, not on any physical damage. Disasters that require relocation can cause significant economic impacts due to business interruption and loss of housing, even if they do not cause extensive loss of life or property damage. Costs of relocation and disaster housing are typically among the largest impacts of a disaster. Unfortunately, disasters in populated areas can easily result in the need to relocate over a million people. Relocation events can differ significantly from each other. For example, consequences can be nonlinear in both the magnitude and the duration of relocation. It is also important to consider whether the relocation is due to a one-time chance event (such as a nuclear-power disaster or a terrorist attack), or a growing threat (e.g., flooding due to sea-level rise), and whether the area will eventually be repopulated, or remain uninhabitable. Costs also depend on the nature of the assets that are interdicted (e.g., loss of unique production capabilities). Finally, distributional effects are important, with increased housing prices causing hardship to low-income renters. Future research is thus important in better preparing for mass relocation.
Professor Bier is a risk analyst and decision analyst specializing in probabilistic risk analysis for homeland security and critical infrastructure protection. Her current research interests include the application of game theory to identify optimal resource allocation strategies for protecting critical infrastructure from intentional attacks. Other interests include: the use of accident "precursors" or near misses in probabilistic risk analysis; the use of expert opinion; and methods for effective risk communication, both to decision makers and to the general public.