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How Prepared is the US for a Natural Disaster?

Oct 19, 2017

How Prepared is the US for a Natural Disaster?


Within a month, two of the most damaging hurricanes ever seen battered America’s southern coast, tailed by another that essentially pushed Puerto Rico back to the 1800s when electricity, telecommunication, clean water, and proper medical assistance was a rarity. Paired with the rising death toll from the raging fires in California, some might think this is the apocalypse, and they’re not technically wrong. “Weather” somebody chooses to believe in global warming or not, it is real. The world is not getting healthier, it’s getting worse–climate change made these recent hurricanes stronger. It may be time for America to rethink pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, but that’s an argument for another day. We’ve got something else on our minds in lieu of these hurricanes–if natural disasters are only getting worse, is America prepared for it?

On a federal level, it could be better. Government aid has only covered about 10% of the costs for Irma and Harvey. The burdens of the costs associated with repairing after a hurricane, including shelters, food, and medical assistance, are largely going to be funded by debt. Increased federal debt means less available money in the long run, meaning less money to spend on disaster prevention and to combat climate change, so it is more or less a self-fulfilling cycle. That being said, the government has large-scale resources that can react to these disasters, such as the National Guard. Though they could be doing more preventing, they have methods in hand to rebound.

There’s a bit more hope on a smaller scale. Local governments are also responsible for preparedness against natural disasters, and they’ve been dealing with them for years. Though the storms may be getting worse, most communities have already adapted to adverse weather in some way. Think of how counties in Minnesota or Montana are probably more adapted to blizzards than in the states in the south because they simply deal with them more often. Though local governments can’t prevent random anomalies from wreaking widespread destruction, they generally have something planned.

Regardless, there’s no way any community can be completely protected against natural disasters, so the core of our preparation is on an individual level. Unfortunately for Americans, about 65% of US households are not adequately prepared for disasters. That’s because some are overconfident in the government to prepare for us, some think they would fare better than everybody else during a disaster, and others simply don’t think a real disaster will strike. We’re really our own worst enemies.

But there’s no need to add nature casually striking you down to your anxiety. A basic kit of supplies and a general plan on what to do during a disaster can go a long way. The government even made this handy website for us about disaster preparedness. You hopefully won’t need to use your disaster kit, but it doesn’t hurt to have an ace up your sleeve if something happens. Plus, if everything does change when the fire nation attacks, let’s just hope that we’ll have people like Elon Musk to swoop in and save us like in Puerto Rico.