In memoriam: Dennis Mileti, hazard mitigation expert

Dr. Dennis Mileti, a renowned hazard mitigation expert, passed away Jan. 30 from COVID-19, according to personnel with the University of Colorado Boulder.

Dr. Mileti was professor emeritus at the university, where he served as director of the Natural Hazards Center and as chair of the Department of Sociology from 1994 to 2004. He authored more than 100 publications, most of which discuss societal aspects of hazards and disasters.

He was appointed by the Governor of California to serve as a Seismic Safety Commissioner. And he worked as a consultant in the private and public sectors in matters related to emergency management and public warnings including, for example, utilities with nuclear power plants, and federal and state agencies.

Dr. Mileti was a research affiliate with a Department of Homeland Security’s national center of excellence for research on terrorism at the University of Maryland to test the effectiveness of imminent threat public warning messages for mobile devices for DHS. He most recently worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop warning issuance delay rates, warning diffusion rates, and public protective action initiation rates regarding dam and levee emergencies.

He served on many advisory boards, including the Committee on Natural Disasters in the National Research Council; the Board of Visitors to FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute; the Board of Directors of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute; the Advisory Board to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Research Program on Earthquakes and Volcanoes; the Expert Advisory Panel for the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s study of the evacuation of the World Trade Center towers on 9/11; the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Expert Panel for the Army Corps of Engineers’ assessment of the New Orleans levee failures (for which he was given the Outstanding Civilian Service Medal by the Department of the Army); and as a member of the California Seismic Safety Commission.

Dr. Mileti was scheduled to speak during the HYDRO+ session on emergency action planning that took place Jan. 27, 2021. He performed an assessment of the Oroville Dam spillway erosion incident that occurred in February 2017 in California, with the goal of incorporating the findings from these studies into risk assessment models used in assessing the impacts of dam and levee failures on a national basis.

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