Like any natural disaster, landslides have far reaching consequences prompting responses from a variety of stakeholders. Landslide instances are unique in that they are “remedied” on a case by case basis depending on factors such as known cause, size, impact and jurisdiction. A landslide’s individual assessment dictates the respective responsibility of the stakeholders involved (e.g. property owner, developer, government agencies). Due to the involvement of multiple parties, it is imperative to have a clear and concise understanding of not only the protocols but a line of communication in the event of a landslide. Communication and cooperative emergency management between agencies will expedite recovery efforts. Understanding responsibility is key to ensuring effective mitigation and recovery.
Mitigation & Response: Who is responsible?
Property owners have the responsibility of knowing if their property is at risk for landslides. A map of landslide prone areas can be found here. It is important to be aware of changes to their property that could “signal” that a landslide is occurring. According to PEMA, warning signs can include the sticking or jamming of doors and windows, the appearance of cracks in plaster, tile brick or foundation, or the movement or tilting of fences, retaining walls, utility poles or trees. In the unfortunate event, property owners should contact the appropriate authorities. Owners are generally responsible for costs incurred, however, individual assistance grants may be given to alleviate the financial burden.
Please view PEMA’s emergency management handbook titled “After the Disaster: Returning to Normal”for more information.
Developers & builders have the responsibility to follow proper land use procedures, conduct professional inspections and design utilizing techniques to mitigate the effects of land movement.
Utility companies should utilize sustainable materials and products, such as flexible pipe fittings, to reduce the damages incurred from landslides. Additionally, utility companies should be wary of soil types and potential movement when establishing their infrastructure (e.g. electric transformers).
Local Government Agencies
Pennsylvania’s municipality structure is unique. Within Allegheny County alone exists 4 cities, 82 boroughs, and 42 townships. The overlap of municipality jurisdictions creates a varying of protocol and procedures for emergency management. Although a municipality governance might different, each governing entity shares a variety of responsibilities. Government agencies are responsible for developing and providing accessible information to advance public awareness. Officials are tasked with providing appropriate and effective grading codes and ordinances that reflect accurate and thorough geological and engineering investigations for use in design and construction projects involving slopes. Furthermore, it is critical for the agencies to review codes, conduct follow-ups inspections, and enforce compliance of guidelines. Officials should budget and seek additional funding, if necessary, for mitigation and recovery efforts (e.g. clearing roads).
A few government agencies pertaining to the City of Pittsburgh are listed below: