Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Disaster Planning and the Oklahoma Tornado

Disaster Planning is something we seem to do very poorly.  It took a wake-up call such as Hurricane Andrew to upgrade building codes in Florida, an attempt to build better wind resistant structures to ameliorate loss of property and protect lives in the future.  Florida still has a long way to go, particularly with insurance issues.

But an improved building code would have done little to minimize structural damage in an F4 or F5 tornado that stays on the ground for a long time such as the horror of yesterday's Oklahoma tragedy.  On the other hand, requiring that new homes be built with a below ground storm shelter, and new schools have storm proof basements, with adequate ventilation and supplies in the event of a structural collapse, is something that could be done.  Retrofitting homes with even a minimal below ground shelter would not be that costly.  Give homeowners offsetting tax credits.  It would save lives.  The odds for surviving a direct hit from such a monster tornado are high in any below the ground shelter as most deaths are from structural collapse and flying debris.  

In the meantime, nothing can be done other than to try to help the victims. There are a number of charities, but the Red Cross has their team there now and one of the best ways to help victims is to give to their disaster relief fund. It is our charity of choice in spite of the occasional false Internet rumor that the Red Cross keeps too much of its charitable donations for its own operating expenses.  It is a large organization and as such perhaps it is a little less efficient than smaller disaster relief charities, but they are in the vanguard of the first responders in Oklahoma.

Red Cross Statement on Oklahoma Tornado
Posted May 20,2013

The American Red Cross issued the following statement following the tornado in Oklahoma this afternoon:

WASHINGTON, Monday, May 20, 2013 – Our thoughts and concerns go to everyone in Oklahoma following this horrific tornado.

The American Red Cross has one shelter open in Moore and is working on locating others; we continue to operate three shelters that were opened Sunday in the Oklahoma City area following the storms on Sunday. .

Red Cross volunteers are out tonight with food and supplies supporting first responders.

More than 25 emergency response vehicles are positioned to move at first light Tuesday, and we expect that the number will increase. The Red Cross is also sending in kitchen support trailers to support the upcoming operation to provide meals to those forced out of their homes.

People in Oklahoma near the tornado area are encouraged to connect with one another and let loved ones know that they are safe. This can be done through the I’m Safe feature of the free Red Cross tornado app. In addition, if you have access to a computer, go to redcross.org/safeandwell to list yourself as safe. If not, you can text loved ones or call a family member and ask them to register you on the site.

This has been a major disaster, and the Red Cross will be there for the people in this state and this community. People who wish to make a donation can support American Red Cross Disaster Relief, which helps provide food, shelter and emotional support to those affected by disasters like the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma and Texas as well as disasters big and small throughout the United States by visiting redcross.org, dialing 1-800-REDCROSS or texting REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.