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Most & Least Disaster-Prone States

May 19, 2023


A recent article shared by the Daily Dispatch noted the most and least disaster-prone states in America. Despite the growing risk of natural disasters, some of the most disaster-prone states are also some of the most rapidly-growing. Chiefs Bob Horton and Jeff Buchanan discuss why people would move to high-risk areas, how emergency response is changing in states with more natural disasters, and what communities can do to build resilience.

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Learn about the most and least disaster-prone states on the latest podcast episode of Fire Headlines by the Western Fire Chiefs Association (WFCA).

Top 5 Most Disaster-Prone States Top 5 Least Disaster-Prone States
1. Texas
Texas is prone to hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods due to its unique geography. Additionally, Texas experiences extreme weather conditions like droughts, heat waves, and wildfires.  

2. Mississippi
Mississippi experiences regular flooding and hurricanes, and these are likely to increase in intensity with climate change. The state also has 50 tornadoes a year.

3. Oklahoma
Oklahoma is prone to natural disasters due to its location in Tornado Alley, making it vulnerable to tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. The state also experiences occasional earthquakes, hailstorms, and wildfires.

4. California
California is famous for earthquakes and wildfires. Droughts and heat waves are also a major concern, and instances of these extreme weather conditions will grow with climate change.

5. Florida
The future weather patterns and trends threaten Florida. The state sees regular hurricanes and flooding. Rising sea levels also pose a threat to this state.
1. Maine
While Maine sees heavy snowfall each year, natural weather disasters do not typically threaten this state.

2. Vermont
Vermont sees regular, heavy snowfall, but recent years have seen growing precipitation and heightened flood risk in this state. Climate change will affect Vermont’s weather and likely increase these events.

3. New Hampshire
Large snowstorms are common in New Hampshire. The state also experiences severe storms and floods but has not declared more than one or two major disasters each year.

4. Alaska
Though Alaska’s average temperatures are very cold and the state experiences major earthquakes, it has one of the most climate-resilient counties in the United States. The low temperatures will help maintain Alaska’s climate as average temperatures continue to rise throughout the rest of the US.

5. Delaware
Delaware experiences downgraded hurricanes, with low risk of wind damage. The state mostly sees heavy rains and flooding, which will grow with climate change.

Migration to High-Risk States

Jeff explains that people move to areas with good weather, good economies, and opportunities for success. While states like California and Florida are known for their beautiful natural areas and economic opportunities, the rapid rise in population as well as the growing prevalence of natural disasters in these areas is a concern. Jeff notes, “Not only are these emergency incidents—tornadoes, hurricanes—happening with a higher level of prevalence, there’s going to more population to deal with.”

Disaster Preparedness

Fire personnel are some of the first responders who are called in to help during natural disasters. Bob advises, “to our fire service listeners who are tracking this […] now is the time, when you’re not in a disaster, to be preparing for that disaster.” Training for natural disaster responses can happen any time, and it is ideal to prepare before a disaster hits.

Community Resilience

More than a single community or state is at risk when natural disasters hit. Jeff says, “This issue of increasing catastrophic circumstances in certain states, it doesn’t just impact one segment of the population. It really drives through the entire community.” Managing resource deployment is difficult during an emergency, and firefighters may be called away from their communities or outside of their regularly scheduled hours when disaster strikes.

You can email Fire Headlines at [email protected]

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