Monday, March 2, 2020

Hurricane Resilience

By Bill Newton, FCAN Deputy Director

Resilience means being able to withstand hurricanes. We want resilient homes and resilient cities. But what is it exactly and how do we do it?

Resilience is becoming more popular, and not a moment too soon The Governor appointed Florida’s first Chief Resilience Officer and Miami and several counties have new resilience offices.

To be resilient is to be prepared for whatever is coming, have a plan for recovery, and bounce back afterwards. So, how do you do it?

At the recent Tampa Bay Resiliency Summit, you could collect ideas for a long to-do list and learn that it will cost money. Federal money would be nice. Houston is spending $4.5 billion in federal funds on the flood problem they discovered when a year's worth of rain fell in just a few days during Hurricane Harvey.

But why do all this? Aren't things good enough the way they are? So what if we lose a few buildings? Can't we just see what happens and then deal with the consequences? Maybe, but we could regret that choice because we have rising sea levels, stronger hurricanes, more fires and, well, it could get rough. Not building more resilient structures will actually be much more expensive than taking steps now to prepare for stronger storms and other climate change impacts.

Wait a minute! How are we supposed to deal with rising sea levels when everything is on the coast? Tampa and St Pete are practically in the water! Pinellas is a peninsula! Why didn't anybody think of that? Do we build dikes? Or move whole cities to higher ground? The Summit actually had a presentation from the Netherlands on their complicated water control strategy. It looks hard to do, but clearly, we have to do something and it’s one idea.

Hold on, you say! Aren’t we just talking about the coast? Most people aren’t even in a flood zone. Unfortunately, hurricanes can now affect you anywhere in the state, so everyone has  to get ready. You may need to retrofit your home, your city, your work, and where your kids go to school. Accepting our new reality and making these changes is more cost effective and will make your home and family safer.

It's easy to see why resilient communities or regions or homes are worth the investment. Any time a home and all a family's possessions are saved, that's not only money saved, that's lives saved and all the things that make up those lives saved too. Becoming resilient gives us peace of mind.

Yes, it is going to be some trouble and some money to do this. Maybe we should have already done it. Now, we either get resilient, or face the consequences, which you can see in the photos from Mexico Beach or California or Australia. No one wants to be caught out in the storm with only a roll of duct tape. No one wants their home turned into a pile of rubble. I'd rather be in a safe place with my family knowing we will get through it, clean up and go on living. Let's get started.

Florida Consumer Action Network (FCAN,) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group founded in 1984 that educates and advocates on consumer issues including insurance, health care, utilities, and environment.


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