September 3, 2005 in Business

Spokane: High, dry and safe, report says

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A Portland company has produced a list of the nation’s 10 safest metros when it comes to natural disasters — with Spokane ranked as the fifth-safest city.

The ranking by Sperling’s Best Places was prepared this week for Forbes Magazine, which published the list Friday in its online editions.

Earlier this week, Forbes editors contacted Sperling’s, which collects urban data and compiles lists of cities for tracking demographic trends, said company president Bert Sperling.

The Forbes safety ranking was requested following the massive devastation wreaked on the Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina.

According to the ranking, Honolulu is the safest city. The next four safest cities are Boise; Santa Fe, N.M.; Yakima; and Spokane. The Tri-Cities ranked sixth.

Those Pacific Northwest cities scored high in safety because they aren’t prone to hurricanes, tornadoes and floods, said Sperling. The chief safety threats in Spokane and North Idaho are extreme weather and high winds, according to the data Sperling uses.

Compared with cities on the West Coast, Spokane and other inland cities have minimal earthquake risk, he added.

The Forbes ranking didn’t include flooding as a factor, though hurricanes are part of the score. Volcanoes aren’t included either, since they happen so rarely, said Sperling.

The three least-safe cities in the Forbes ranking are Monroe, La.; Dallas; and Jackson, Miss.

Sperling’s firm has compiled weather and disaster data for 331 metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S.

“I would change one thing,” he said, “in that the (Forbes safety) ranking doesn’t weigh some things as more serious than others.” Hurricanes and tornadoes cause more damage, in general, than extreme weather, winds, hail or brush fires. But in the Forbes ranking, all carry equal weight.

Sperling added that the Forbes rankings considered only geographic and climate factors, although the Best Places company also tracks other safety measures including jobless rates and crime.

One Liberty Lake company that already emphasizes Spokane’s relative safety from disasters has seen a spike in interest since the hurricane.

IT-Lifeline, which offers data-backup and disaster-recovery services for companies and agencies, has seen a rise in phone calls and contacts, said company president Steve Tabacek.

“Spokane has been traditionally a secure geographical area,” he said. That attribute has significant value for companies who want to be sure their records and key information can be saved or backed up, he said.

Following the news earlier this week, Tabacek said, “We’ve had had more first-time inquiries than in any other period.”

But IT-Lifeline won’t try to capitalize on the Gulf disaster, said Tabacek. “It would be counterproductive to use this situation as a marketing tool.”


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