Disaster plans and historic preservation

Posted in: Cultural Resources, Infrastructure


City Lab - Why historic preservation needs to be part of disaster planningDisaster planning is a critical component of any master plan. But are measures to protect historic sites adequately considered in these plans? Building Community Resilience through Historic Preservation is a recent report from the University of Colorado Denver and University of Kentucky. The study found that only one-third of states included historic preservation goals and strategies in mitigation plans for natural disasters.

After wildfires and flooding wreaked havoc in Colorado, the state invested time and money to plan for future disasters. One proven method of protecting historic resources is developing Programmatic Agreements under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. The Colorado Department of Transportation’s Section 106 Programmatic Agreement includes emergency measures (see Stipulation XII: Emergency Situations). Immediate rescue and salvage operations are exempt from Section 106. Emergency repairs must occur within 30 days of a disaster. Permanent repairs must follow the established process set forth in the Programmatic Agreement.

Procedures help, but they need to be updated as circumstances change. States should have advance knowledge which historic resources have the greatest potential to be threatened by extreme weather. Most states have GIS data for National Register of Historic Places-listed properties. The report by CU and KU recommends overlaying these sites with floodplain data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency where available. As City Lab observed, disaster planners and historic preservationists share the same goals to preserve life, infrastructure and property.


Dianna Litvak

About the Author

Dianna Litvak is a public historian who specializes in surveying historic farms, ranches, post-World War II neighborhoods and linear features such as roads, irrigation ditches and railroad grades. A native of Denver, Dianna enjoys developing interpretive exhibits for properties as diverse as the Colorado State Capitol, Denver Union Station and the National Western Stock Show. She also serves on the Colorado National and State Register Review Board.

Read more posts by Dianna Litvak

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