The fierce independence of people in areas affected by tornadoes and flooding throughout the Texas and Oklahoma areas was suggested as the reason why people will drive into flood waters, even going around barriers to do so and why people refuse to put storm shelters or safe rooms in their homes and businesses. Nobody is going to tell them what to do – and that means people lose their lives or, as a result of those choices, are permanently maimed from injuries for the rest of their life.
If it is fiercely independent and sophisticated to ignore the dangers of weather, ignore warnings of these dangers and refuse to take protective measures, then what can be done to help at all?
I have watched in Georgia over the years, people who refused to take railroad crossing barriers as an insistence on not running across those train tracks until the train passed. No, that didn’t apply to them. At every opportunity, they simply went around the barrier even with the train in sight, barreling at them. There was no regard for my life in the car with them, those train barriers simply didn’t apply to them in their estimation and they weren’t going to be told what to do. I’ve watched people take U-turns right in the middle of four-lanes of traffic on busy suburban town streets for the same reason and go through red lights as well or refuse to stop at stop signs for the same reason, nearly wrecking their own lives and the lives of others in the process. But, there is no way to change their minds about it. The government and others are not going to tell them what to do. It is insane.
But, in the wake of these extreme weather events, much of the injuries and fatalities are being caused by the same thing. People don’t want their homes to be designed any differently than they ever have been – not in any way, whether it is a change of shape, the addition of a safe room, the addition of hurricane wind resistant straps, putting the house on stilts or above potential flood waters that could come, or anything else that might be done.
And, before the storm surge barreled into the coastal areas of New York City, people weren’t going to be told what to do before that storm either. They refused to believe that a large storm surge was coming , if they didn’t want to believe that and they weren’t going to stay inside their homes during the hurricane force winds, no matter what anyone said about it. In Texas and other areas where substantial flooding has occurred, even as of yesterday in San Antonio – despite the campaign to “turn around, don’t drown” – people still crossed through the barriers into the flood waters on streets to try and run through them in their cars – resulting in two deaths. People there believe that the warnings to keep their cars away from the flooded streets or to go around them, doesn’t apply to them and they won’t be told what to do either.
In the process of whatever is causing this application of what it means to be fiercely independent, those choices are yielding massive harms to those who are doing it that way as well as to those around them, to others in their families, to their communities, to their neighbors, to rescuers that then have to come get them out of the mess. It is causing inappropriate and damaging choices among their leadership at their insistence and preventing things from being put in place that could prevent any deaths from occurring during these extreme weather events.
The reason that we have stop signs and stop lights, is not to force the submission of the people in America to give up their freedom of choice at each intersection, though it could be interpreted that way using the same thinking of those mentioned above. Those stoplights, traffic laws, rules and stop signs are intended to protect the lives, freedoms and opportunities of all who use the roads. When an accident happens by two or more vehicles entering the intersection from every direction, the lives and future opportunities of everyone involved are permanently changed. What is the value of applying fierce independence and freedom of choice to go through that intersection unsafely ignoring traffic rules, stop lights and stop signs and endangering every other driver there, as well as passengers in the car and every home nearby that could be affected by the wreck on their street?
What value is that fierce independence and sophistication applied as an excuse to go through a train crossing barrier as a train is approaching or to get around a flooded street barrier set in place by police to prevent loss of life when passage across that flooded street could result in vehicles being washed away? Where is the principle of freedom and willful choice being applied in this way adding anything of value to the person’s life or those around them when doing things this way? Not only are they endangering themselves, but those around them as well – risking not being there for their own families which will impact them forever and rescuers that must then come and be of help risking their own lives to do so as well? The conductors and engineers on a train don’t deserve to die because someone decided to go around the barrier and then were hit by that train. Their life partners and children don’t deserve to be forced to live without their loved ones because someone decided that train crossing barrier didn’t apply to them.
And, those rescuers that ran through the flooded waters on small boats risking their lives yesterday to find not only the vehicles, but the bodies of the occupants as well, didn’t deserve to be maimed or killed doing that to find someone whose choice was to ignore all warnings and apply their fierce independence to choose to run their vehicle through flood waters believing that those warnings and facts about it didn’t apply to them. There were thousands of homes destroyed during the tornadoes in Oklahoma and every person who owns one of those homes, businesses or buildings that were unwilling to do anything different about those structures to insure they would survive a tornado, may have been choosing to apply their fierce independence to choose to do that, refusing to be told what to do ahead of time, but to what good? Not only were their future opportunities and freedoms altered permanently by the destruction of those properties, but their and their families’ and their neighbors lives were endangered, put at risk unnecessarily and in some cases, permanently maimed from injuries sustained as a result. To what good does the application of refusing to be told what to do and being considered “fiercely independent” in these responses to common sense about storms and extreme weather events help anyone?
The cost of having a safe room in a school is far less than the loss of life and costs of people, including children being permanently maimed during an extreme weather event for which the school, the community, the city and the county or parish would be liable. Whether that liability is proven directly through payouts on lawsuits or through the indirect costs to the community, city and state to house, feed, provide health service for, deal with the disabilities caused by, deal with the lost productivity and the complete dependence of the individual and the families caused by not taking preventative measures such as safe rooms and improved structural integrity for buildings, the costs of not doing something are extreme and real. These costs represent real dollars that will be spent in the aftermath whether they are considered in the original cost to benefit analysis of building a safe room in every school and home and business and government building or not – except that it is rare in an extreme weather event that only one person will be affected by it and potentially maimed for life. The numbers are massive and in every state of the US, there is a rarity of only a single event per state occurring of any kind of extreme weather, flooding, wildfires, landslides, tornadoes, hurricanes or other damaging event. It is more typical that more than one event per year and sometimes, within the same month occurring in every single state and territory across the US.
There is only ONE acceptable number for fatalities and injuries to people from an extreme weather event and that number is ZERO. It is not acceptable losses to have even one life lost or even one serious injury. If there is one injury or one fatality, then it literally, realistically means that we aren’t getting it right and something hasn’t been done right. And, in this day and age – there are still very basic things that have to happen in order to prevent loss of life and serious injuries – including these two which are the most basic –
1. It is necessary to accept and believe the seriousness of these extreme weather events and their real dangers.
2. It is necessary to accept and believe that something can be done about it to protect life and prevent injuries during in the aftermath of the event AND that there is value in doing so.
Beyond that, it is common sense, however – a plan used by one wonderful elderly woman and her family thought it made sense apparently, was to sit in the little bathroom of her home on a stool and hold her little dog knowing that these tornadoes decimate the entire structure into a pile of dust, splintered wood and stripped metal shrapnel without regard for the walls of the bathroom where she would be hiding from it. That, in fact, was not only the choice of planning that she made, but that of many neighbors, families with small children, elderly and otherwise intelligent people in the same community and in other communities throughout the five state areas known as tornado alley.
Now if I were to think about this and think it through – if I were to say to my family members or neighbors –
there is going to be a thing that will come through my house like a bomb or a bulldozer destroying every surface, every light fixture and electrical cord, breaking every piece of glass or lamp, that will tear up every stud in the wall, floors and ceilings – and throw appliances and furniture at great speeds across and through every room, until within a few minutes the entire place where I live is nothing but a pile of broken metal and ripped up studs and roof shingles and torn up shredded belongings totally filled with sticking up nails, broken glass and sharp pieces of plastics and metals everywhere –
and it is known that it is going to happen sooner or later to the house where I live –
I’m going to sit in the bathroom on a stool while it happens even as those walls, ceiling and floor are being torn into whirling spikes and shards around me sitting there. But, it will be fine – it is the best plan.
If I said that, they would be putting me in a place where someone would be taking care of me rather than having my own choices about my well-being. And it would be done because my choices wouldn’t be making one lick of good sense.
But there are entire populations across the United States that are doing just that, and who have done just that in Oklahoma last week during the massive tornado events that came through their homes and decimated them. And as they said, from Texas to Oklahoma – it wasn’t their first rodeo – so the facts used to prepare for the safety of those who would eventually be impacted by tornadoes throughout those areas – can only be considered in the same light as the example above – if were me thinking it through that way and choosing to sit in the midst of something known to be that dangerous without making appropriate choices about it ahead of time.
My family explained it to me yesterday, that people in these states that are making choices in these ways are exhibiting what they considered to be fierce independence. I have thought about it and disagree – they are exhibiting the same thing it would be called if I were doing it – extreme lack of good sense about the dangers involved with these extreme weather events from tornadoes to floods to hurricanes to storm surges on the coasts.
And I would propose this analogy to explain the first basic difference between a healthy application of fierce independence and the other application of that which is unhealthy and even, dangerous –
A use of free will and being fiercely independent that makes the choice to ignore all warnings written on and known about pouring lighter fluid directly on a live fire to pour a stream of it on a live fire yields an unhealthy and dangerous choice which is evident when the fire trail follows the stream of lighter fluid back to the person holding it and explodes with fire up across face, hands, hair and clothing. That is a bad use of the application of fierce independence, free will and not being willing to be told what to do.
The healthy use of free will and fierce independence in that situation was the choice to have a barbecue, what foods to be cooked that would be enjoyable, inviting others to join or not and what foods to serve with it, what flavors of beer and beverages to have and whether to have a plaid tablecloth on the table or a floral one, and a multitude of similar choices that are safely extensions of personal choice with no dire consequences to the safety or future opportunities and choices of anyone. Those are healthy expressions of freedom of choice and amazingly, many people will extend those expressions to things that are not healthy applications of it – from things like under-cooking food or mishandling it because they won’t be told what to do – to putting the lighter fluid directly on the open flame of a barbecue grill to drinking heavily and then driving to the store to get some more regardless of the dangers involved.
It is not an expression of identity to choose to not put a storm shelter or basement in a house. It is an expression of identity to choose a color to paint the walls that is more liked and enjoyed rather than another – or a shape of windows with panes or without – not that those windows be unsafe for anyone to use or to be a danger during storms and high winds. There is no personal expression of good sense to wear flip flops while digging around through debris left from a hurricane, tornado, storm surge or flood – no matter what personal taste and freedom of choice may have enticed the person to do so. It is inappropriate and lacks good sense.
There is nothing decent and good said about the person whose expression of their self-worth and the value of their family members safety in their estimation, when the costs of having safe shelter in a storm are considered too great but that same amount of money is spent on new counters, a swimming pool or hot tub, a vacation, a cruise or for furniture that will be nothing but dust and debris after the event. There is no healthy expression of personality and identity and beliefs exhibited by the phrase, “I wouldn’t have one of those scaredy rooms,” or “I’m not going into the basement just to be safe when a tornado is coming. You’re making a big deal out of nothing like a bunch of drama queens.”
And, there is absolutely no good sense in this one – “None of us can do anything about Mother Nature. There is nothing that can be done about that.” Those same people saying that neither live out under trees nor go down to the river in order to get water – obviously mankind has done a multitude of things about Mother Nature including to build structures to live in and plumbing systems to bring water and to carry water to homes in the first place. Mankind has built dams and levees to mitigate flooding and to provide water for fields that otherwise wouldn’t grown anything as well as to make water available to massive populations which otherwise would not be anywhere close to a clean source of water.
There are things that can be done ahead of time and most of those are not so expensive as to be out of the reach of these communities and individual homeowners, building owners, businesses and townships. Studies of things that will work have been made from ways to make earthquake resistant buildings, methods for building which are more tolerant of the high winds from hurricanes and tornadoes to the underground building of basements and storm cellars or above ground in home safe rooms. Things are known that will mitigate the degree of damage and offer more safety for human life in building methods, building materials and storm resistant shelters. It is obvious that even as far back as the Aztec empire, it was known that flooding can occur and that the dangers from flooding can be mitigated by building on stilts and heavy timbers above the level of expected flooding. In 2013, why would any of that be so hard for people to understand and apply?
P.S. There is nothing fashionable, sophisticated or fiercely independent about ignoring the facts about impending weather events made publicly available from the National Weather Service and a variety of sources including actual weather radar maps in real time and expert meteorologists including those on the Weather Channel. There is nothing fashionable and sophisticated about being dead or permanently maimed and disabled from a storm surge, from flooding, from tornadoes, from hurricane winds or from any other extreme event which certainly can be anticipated and efforts made to be protected from those dangers.