Disaster Reduction Planning for Recreation Areas via Cascading Models


  • Paul M. Whitworth
  • Fred May


all-hazards, disaster modeling, hazard analysis, hazard mitigation, multihazard, safe zone, threat sequence.


Disaster events occurring during the first five years of the decade suggest the need for parks and recreation agencies to conduct hazard analysis and disaster planning for recreation areas. A disaster refers to a relatively unexpected event which typically overwhelms existing resources and threatens life or property (May, 1998). Natural and human-caused hazard and disaster events may pose threats to vulnerable infrastructure, visitors, and the public (Whitworth, May, & Ruddell, 2001). Both urban and remote recreation areas may be subject to natural and human-caused hazard and disaster events. While Hurricanes Katrina and Rita created substantial impacts on urban areas, earthquakes and fires in Yellowstone National Park, floods in Yosemite National Park, and fires in national forests illustrate the importance of disaster analysis and planning for outdoor recreation sites as well. Disasters of this kind can be catastrophic and kill or injure visitors, damage facilities and infrastructure, and disrupt programs and operations. In addition, recovery periods are likely to be long. Impacts on resources and users may be complicated by inherent natural hazards and destruction of transportation routes and infrastructure. Furthermore, victims in park and recreation areas may face protracted delays in emergency response due to priority of assistance allocated to larger population centers. Although considerable potential for impacts and human suffering are associated with disaster events, the complexity of these events are difficult to understand and predict. Agency personnel seeking to engage in pre-disaster hazard analysis and disaster preparation and planning need tools for understanding such complexity. This paper illustrates the use of cascading disaster modeling as a tool for understanding the complexity of natural disasters in recreation areas and as a tool for risk analysis and planning.