The homes, businesses, buildings and public spaces such as schools are currently leaving us vulnerable to severe weather events. These events are sure to happen across the US, possibly as severely and as commonly or even more so than they have in the past. Those are facts. There are no doubts about those two things.
Brief Visual Tornado Infographic for US from ABC News –
First, people have to get the information.
Second, they have to take that information seriously and not discredit it.
Third, they have to know the right things to do that will save their own lives and the lives of others.
Fourth, people have to be able to do them – if there is no storm shelter in place, they can’t use it for safety – if there is no high ground, they won’t have it to be safe from flooding.
Fifth, people must know and understand both the hazards and appropriate safe ways of dealing with the aftermath of damage – walking around on debris without heavy soled shoes yields injuries, for instance.
But beyond those things, our nation faces a greater crisis in that very few of our structures can withstand these extreme weather events and provide safety. Most of our structures were not built for these things and any corrective retrofit of these structures has been too costly to be considered, so hasn’t been done.
Our building methods and materials are leaving entire populations of our nation at risk with virtually nowhere to go for safety during an extreme event.
For tornadoes, it is known that basements, storm shelters, storm cellars can save lives, but not if they are not in place and available. Where areas are known to have tornadoes commonly and as a likely event, builders have been allowed to leave off any basement or storm cellar. That is unacceptable. People buying houses in any of these areas can choose to refuse to buy any home that does not have either a basement or storm shelter. Building codes can be more insistent on these safety measures being included in all buildings, residences and especially public buildings, from hospitals to libraries to schools to city and county buildings.
But, the choices are being made across this country to not do those things and those choices have been being made that way for nearly thirty years if not longer, despite knowing the dangers to human lives and communities that it represents not having safe shelter for people during extreme weather events.
Here, today – I thought about our building materials and methods as I watched the photos from the devastated Moore, Oklahoma area on the tele –
And these are my notes –
Are there coatings, or coatings plus architectural fabrics that could be added to retrofit homes and unreinforced masonry buildings to make them stronger such that they would survive a storm’s high winds whether tornadoes, hurricanes – or even earthquakes and storm surges / flooding?
Could a carbon fiber wrap be created that would strengthen buildings, school facilities, brick buildings such as New York has throughout the city to make them safe?
Are there lessons from aerodynamics that could create other shapes of our structures to facilitate their survival against these storms and extreme events? The shapes of our homes and buildings have little changed from a typical box-based shape for hundreds of years. Is that contributing to the massive structural failures in our living spaces that is evidenced after every tornado, hurricane, flood, storm surge, fire, earthquake, or micro-burst?
Would a change in construction methods make survivability better in homes, businesses and buildings generally? I thought about the glue and screw method that someone had invented after Hurricane Katrina and the fact that many older homes with oak and longer, heavier nails sometimes remain after these events. It is as if the nails have become part of the wood after a hundred years and almost can’t be removed – maybe that is one way that could be added to what is already being done.
There was a home in California that was rebuilt to be completely fire-proof by an engineer after it had burned down. I thought about that house and the one along the Gulf Coast that was redesigned by its owners to withstand any storm surge with its curving shape, waterproof sealing doors and built to have living spaces on the second floor. Why didn’t those around them in those same areas that would surely expect to have future extreme events, not adopt those practices for their own homes and businesses as they were re-built?
Knowing that homes are housing the precious living spaces of our nation’s people – why would the builders have not been required to put basements or storm shelters in place? In areas known to be affected by tornadoes, and where those events are very likely – why would there not be at least a neighborhood storm shelter put in place where everyone could go and be safe?
And one other thing I was considering –
there are new methods for building with concrete using fabric forms – could some of those shapes be stronger against storms and sever weather events?
And why did concrete block wall panels in the elementary school that was decimated in Moore, Oklahoma fall on people as if they were not in any way connected to the adjoining perpendicular wall to keep them in place together? What construction method allowed that to be possible?