“Lessons From Hurricane Harvey: Houston’s Struggle Is America’s Tale”

The Diva has been contemplating the concept of resilience, as described in the document Disaster Resilience; A National Imperative, published by the National Academy of Sciences in 2012. Reviewing it against the present setting of disaster recovery efforts in Houston, TX, the State of FL, and all of Puerto Rico has raised many questions.

Reading this powerful article in the N.Y. Times suggests to me that it is time to review current thinking about resilience and about emergency management in general. See: Lessons From Hurricane Harvey: Houston’s Struggle Is America’s TaleSome key excerpts:

For years, the local authorities turned a blind eye to runaway development. Thousands of homes have been built next to, and even inside, the boundaries of the two big reservoirs devised by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1940s after devastating floods. Back then, Houston was 20 miles downstream, its population 400,000. Today, these reservoirs are smack in the middle of an urban agglomeration of six million.

Unfortunately, nature always gets the last word. Houston’s growth contributed to the misery Harvey unleashed. The very forces that pushed the city forward are threatening its way of life.

Sprawl is only part of the story. Houston is also built on an upbeat, pro-business strategy of low taxes and little government. Many Texans regard this as the key to prosperity, an antidote to Washington. It encapsulates a potent vision of an unfettered America.

After every natural calamity, American politicians make big promises. They say: We will rebuild. We will not be defeated. Never again will we be caught unprepared.
But they rarely tackle the toughest obstacles. The hard truth, scientists say, is that climate change will increasingly require moving — not just rebuilding — entire neighborhoods, reshaping cities, even abandoning coastlines.

We need a whole new structure of governance,” he insisted. “We’ve built in watersheds, paved roads and highways because we don’t have mass transit.
“Inevitably, it all catches up with us,” the judge said. “Mother Nature has a long memory.”

See also this posting dated Sept. 7th: What H. Harvey Says about Risk, Climate, and Resilience.

Posted in Building codes, Building Safety, building standards, Climate Change, Coastal Hazards, Floods, Hurricane Harvey | Leave a comment

“CERT Should be Mandatory”

CERT Should be Mandatory. I have written about this topic before, when someone suggested a business version of the Community Emergency Response Team (a program sponsored by FEMA) would be useful. Here is a link to CERT Training Materials.

As a local CERT member, I highly recommend the program be adapted and extended to additional users.

Thanks for Alisha Harding for the citation.


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How To Do Disaster Planning When Ignoring Climate Change?

From the NY Times: Trump Ignores Climate Change. That’s Very Bad for Disaster Planners.

In Washington, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is leading recovery efforts that could cost taxpayers more than $50 billion after devastating storms hit Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands. At the same time, the agency is wrestling with an even harder problem: how to help communities prepare for future flooding disasters that could be far more severe than anything seen this year.

Complicating that task is the fact that the Trump administration has largely been hostile to discussions of global warming.

As a taxpayer, I hate to see $50B dollars of federal money spent while ignoring a major factor in the recovery planning. Climate change is the elephant in the room…..

Posted in Climate Change | 2 Comments

New GAO Report on FEMA’s Public Assistance Program

Disaster Assistance: Opportunities to Enhance Implementation of the Redesigned Public Assistance Grant Program; Nov 8, 2017.  Note that the website now gives you access to a one-page summary, the recommendations, and the full document.

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Another Inequity in PR Response

According to the Wash Post today, Seven weeks after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Ricans still can’t access programs that fed millions in Texas and Florida. Funding system was designed to cut costs.

It cannot be just me who thinks cutting costs on food for victims of a major disaster is a disgraceful action. It is truly baffling that the previous two disasters, in TX and FL, were treated differently.

Be sure to read comments from readers on this posting.


Continuation of Discussion re Assessing Preparedness

The Diva wants to thank Terry Hastings for providing this article, which provides an in-depth look at the issue under discussion. See: The Ongoing Quest to Assess & Measure Preparedness. 

Terry Hastings is the senior policy advisor for the New York Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.

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H. Harvey Second Most Costly U.S. Disaster

From the WSJ: Two Months After Harvey, Houston Continues to Count the Cost
Tens of thousands are still living in hotel rooms from the August hurricane, which is estimated to have cost $73.5 billion in economic loss.

Note that the chart in the article shows total estimated costs for the recent hurricanes with H. Maria and H. Irma numbers lower than for H. Harvey.

Posted in Financial Aspects, Hurricane, Hurricane Harvey | Leave a comment