Our future disaster preparation


Q. What can I do to strengthen my home against storms? I know that if we got a real hurricane, based on what I saw from Sandy, I probably wouldn’t do very well. Can I prepare?

A. I remember school drills when we crouched under desks to avoid nuclear attack. I wondered what curling in a ball would actually do. I’ve been taking pictures as I review and do plans to repair homes, and find that most homes that failed did so because of poor installation, not poor materials.

The exception comes to us from my recent trip to Oklahoma. I reviewed 1,800 homes ripped apart by tornadoes, and noted that very little, except reinforced concrete walls and ceilings, will resist the wrath of severe weather.  You can see the pictures at gogetfunding.com/project/hell-or-high-water, and also see the beginning trailer of the documentary series I’m producing about emergency preparedness and disaster recovery. We interviewed over 40 people to learn what our communities and homeowners experience and what we can do, as a nation, to prepare and survive. Everyone from the city manager to the FEMA director to the school superintendent to the Building Department commissioner and the residents of Moore, Okla., sat down with us and told their stories and observations.

Seven third-graders were killed when walls collapsed around them. Their classmates, parents and teachers told how the air was filled with natural gas and insulation particles as the storm raged. I learned that most buildings that were destroyed were built to old codes. If you follow the requirements of the new codes and have structural connectors and internal reinforcement calculated and designed by an architect or engineer, then inspected by them during installation, you stand a much better chance of not losing your property or your life. Everyone I interviewed mentioned this.

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