Is America Ready for Superstorms?

According to a consensus of U.S. scientists, Earth’s climate has changed. No longer are catastrophes as rare and unpredictable as they were in the past. From Hurricane Katrina, to a disastrous tornado in Joplin, Missouri, to Superstorm Sandy along the East Coast, why do so many American businesses and individuals continue to fail to adequately prepare for and respond to disasters?

A recent CNN article by Stephen E. Flynn explains how disasters continue to cost the U.S. both money and lives.

“There is much that we can and should be doing to better anticipate and prepare for extreme weather events,” Flynn wrote in his article. “As a nation, we also should be embracing proven cost-effective measures that will reduce the harm that disasters cause and bolster the speed at which communities can recover.”

Flynn outlines five key lessons learned from America’s most recent superstorm, Hurricane Sandy.

1. Water is more dangerous than wind. While news present images of high winds blowing debris and people around the roads, a more serious hazard is flooding from storm surges and torrential rain. Communities should prioritize adapting urban landscapes and the location of power transformers, transit systems, wastewater systems, and other critical assets for disasters like Superstorm Sandy.

2. Older infrastructure is vulnerable. Not investing in critical infrastructure only makes disasters worse. America must invest in transportation, communications, energy, and other critical safeguards and lifelines.

3. Disaster recovery is just as valuable as disaster preparation. Communities must better respond to disasters like Sandy to get critical systems communities back on their feet again quickly. “Harnessing the capabilities of willing and able citizens and the private sector is key,” Flynn wrote in his article. “People and systems need to be able to better withstand, respond, adapt, and rapidly recover from disasters.”

4. The federal government’s role during disasters is critical. As the scale of disasters grows, such as that shown in Katrina and Sandy, so does the involvement of the U.S. federal government, both in helping communities preplan and then during recovery.

5. Disaster education should be institutionalized. Instead of ad hoc examination of lessons learned after an event, teachable moments by an organized government entity (think something similar to the National Transportation Safety Board) should be implemented. This will help Americans better prepare for the next inevitable disaster.

For more information about lessons learn from Superstorm Sandy, visit: http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/06/opinion/flynn-storms-preparation/