As Hurricane Michael—among the strongest storms ever in the U.S.—fades from the headlines and long-term recovery efforts begin, we can glean lessons from past hurricane rebuilds. Small towns were among the hardest hit by Michael and could be the slowest to recover. Here’s the major lesson: after the FEMA trailers depart, resilience in small-town America requires good governance.
The nonprofit I work with, the Institute for Building Technology and Safety (IBTS), for instance, has quietly helped hundreds of smaller communities around the U.S. for 40 years after disaster strikes. Here, some of their experts weigh in on how good governance builds resilience.
IBTS’s Greg Blount notes, “A key to lessening the burden post-disaster on the 11 Louisiana parishes most acutely affected by Hurricane Katrina was to ensure that new homes were built to a code that anticipates future catastrophic storms. We found that homes built to the new code were 65 percent less likely to sustain damage during hurricanes.”
Engaging with over 70 communities throughout Puerto Rico, my colleagues and I witnessed that—after the initial shock of Hurricane Maria’s devastation,—leaders and community members alike were ready to focus on planning, infrastructure, security and schools. Putting these issues on the table together helped identify unexpected benefits and priorities.
“Listening to homeowners in bedroom communities like Breezy Point as part of efforts to ‘bounce forward’ after Hurricane Sandy in New York gave significant momentum to home rebuilding," Radcliff said. "Some communities were determined to preserve historic characteristics, while others were determined to create green infrastructure amenities. In both cases, their determination propelled the government need to retrofit and rebuild homes ready for the next storm.”
Image courtesy of the Institute for Building Technology and Safety
Patrick Howell is lead of resilience at the <a href="www.ibts.org">Institute for Building Technology and Safety</a>, whose mission is to deliver quality services to meet the challenges of governance at all levels while enhancing public safety, economic development, and the general welfare of the community.