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Mitigation and Cities in Decline

Mitigation and Cities in Decline

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Many things in life have a beginning and an end. Our lives move through chapters as we experience new and exciting things, while also going through difficult periods.

Cities, ironically, mimic this same story. Cities are born, thrive and many times, and cities begin to decline due to numerous societal factors some outside of their control. These hardships are often just a part of a city’s life, but this very issue can be incredibly problematic for emergency management efforts. As a city declines, there are numerous safety issues that come with it: increases in crime, road maintenance problems and buildings becoming unsafe as individuals stop caring for them properly.

Emergency managers have been trained to mitigate safety issues in their community–these very issues can become particularly problematic in the midst of a major emergency or disaster. Conversely, mitigation efforts can be difficult for lawmakers to understand at times, considering the costs to figure out where the issues are and the funds required to make something safe once again.

It can be a costly endeavor for local governments, and an expense that may not be important when a city no longer has the amount of people living in it that it once did. Mitigation is always important, but a cost-benefit analysis is an important consideration for local governments. Detroit, MI, for example, is a city in decline, but has come up with a method for mitigating efforts while doing so in a cost-effective fashion.

Mitigation Efforts

Mitigation efforts are particularly important to emergency management. Under the framework of good mitigation efforts, emergency managers identify problems within their own jurisdiction that should be repaired or attended to.

Mitigation efforts can include regular maintenance on something problematic in a community – like a road that continues to be washed away by storms, or homes that continue to flood because of the way a road is banked. Mitigation efforts can also identify issues lik3 bridges that need repairs, and grants may be available to assist with the expenses.

In doing so, mitigation efforts can redirect what would have been a problematic issue into something completely manageable. But without mitigation efforts, issues in a community can be completely disastrous in certain conditions.

Declining Cities

Declining cities are just that – cities where people are moving away and buildings and roads are no longer cared for the way they might have been cared for in the past. Detroit is a city that has seen a tremendous decrease in population, leaving behind many buildings in disrepair.

These issues become dangerous to any individuals coming in contact with it, particularly firefighters should a fire break out. It can be difficult for a local government to want to repair these buildings, as they are no longer in use. It can also be costly for a town or city that no longer has the population it once did.

In many ways, one could argue that in the cost-benefit analysis, these crumbling buildings simply are not worth the money to fix them, especially if there are fewer citizens and no real reason for the buildings to be maintained.

Safety Issues

A municipal government needs to carefully weigh its options when it comes to mitigating efforts involving abandoned buildings. In Detroit letting abandoned buildings burn has been a safe practice for city personnel while mitigating some of the problems the city has had due to a decrease in population.

Detroit’s practices are certainly something to take note of for other cities as they contemplate how to deal with fewer people and potential safety problems within their jurisdiction.

Abandoned buildings, as Andrew Graves describes are a safety issue considering that they’re a target for arsonists and “a haven for other criminal activity.” Jeff Shupe also explains that abandoned buildings are a concern, as firefighters do not know which sections are occupied–among the many other hazards associated with abandoned building fires.

Depending on the specific building and the mitigation efforts for the local government, it is important to weigh all options. This can help to mitigate problems in the city, while also doing so in a relatively budget-friendly fashion.

Photo Credit: Photo by WC / Public Domain (CC0)



American Military University
Allison G. S. Knox An emergency medical technician and a political scientist, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior ... learn more

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