I am currently traveling home from a post disaster survey trip in southeast Texas, as part of a team with the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS). As I try to organize my thoughts on the last few days, one thought keeps coming to my mind: We really can do so much better.
After a few days of surveying the damage in Port Aransas, Rockport, Ingleside and other communities hit by Hurricane Harvey, I began to imagine a world where hurricanes are not the devastating, life altering events they have been in the past. It turns out that the total destruction that we've been seeing on the news for the last few days is not inevitable. We can build better, I saw it. The destruction in some of these towns was devastating and I am still wrapping my head around it, but I was extremely impressed by the homes that seemed to appear as if nothing happened.
One community in Rockport, which experienced some of the highest winds Harvey served up, is a mixture of older primary homes, and newer vacation homes. If you were to guess which homes were which based on the damage, you'd probably do pretty well. Many of the older houses were entirely destroyed, while the newer ones, which are built to much stronger guidelines, needed but a few shingles and some siding. I imagine the light blue houses in the pictures above giving defiant "shrugs" as Harvey passed through. If the correct building methods are widely adopted, I can imagine a day when entire communities that can simply "shrug" when Mother Nature serves up another Harvey.
The concern though, is that rebuilding efforts will not incorporate the latest guidelines for building stronger. We often hear that these guidelines are too expensive and burdensome, while in reality, the cost of ignoring them can too often be counted in lives lost. One study notes that voters tend to reward politicians who spend money post disaster. My question is: When will we start rewarding politicians for the pre disaster funding and leadership that keeps our homes, belongings and loved ones safe?
Category: Climate/natural disasters: Disaster risk, Floods/storms, Resilience
Location: Corpus Christi, TX, United States