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Reducing the Risks of Natural Hazards: A Program for the Future

USGS Customer Listening Session

November 3, 2004

Final Report


The USGS (U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department of the Interior) hosted a listening session in Washington, D.C. in November 2004 as part of its on-going dialogue with customers, partners and stakeholders. The 2004 session represents the fourth in a series of listening sessions (2000, 2001 and 2003) organized by USGS. The USGS Executive Leadership Team continued in the tradition of the previous conversations by inviting customers to share their thoughts on core science programs and, in a new thrust for this session, also invited input on a new USGS effort to reduce the risks of natural hazards.

USGS leaders' recognition of the need for a new focus on natural hazards grows out of its long-standing commitment to science that serves the public, reinforced by comments at previous listening sessions that natural hazards present a good opportunity to make the link between science and society. Building on core USGS science programs, such an initiative would provide an additional focus for USGS to address a broad range of public needs. Therefore, the 2004 listening session was designed primarily as a forum for inviting input from customers, partners and stakeholders to help USGS define and promote its unique role in natural hazards for the greatest impact on public health and safety in the U.S.

Attendees of the session included nearly 90 individuals representing various government entities, professional associations and societies, nonprofit research and academic institutions, and consulting firms, as well as the USGS Executive Leadership Team and other USGS employees (see Appendix 1 for full list of participants). Participants were provided with a framing document and agenda that outlined the objectives of the meeting (see Appendices 2 & 3).

The agenda was structured around three main discussion sessions, with key questions suggested for each session. Questions for the first discussion session focused on potential benefits of a natural hazards program, prioritizing the activities of the program and what scientific tools and knowledge are needed to reduce the risks of natural hazards. The questions for the second session concentrated on the goals of the program, how it would function, what the roles of various partners might be and how to communicate the value of the program to stakeholders and the public at large. The third discussion session centered on partnership models, ways for the hazards program to take advantage of partnerships, and thoughts on the value and possible design of an external grants component for the program. Time was reserved at the end of the day for comments related to USGS core science programs.

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