Press-Republican

Local News

April 28, 2013

Dollars for disasters

Gayland Kitch doesn’t feel a bit sheepish about not having a storm cellar.

That’s in spite of his job as director of emergency management in Moore, Okla., which in May 1999 faced one of the most violent tornadoes on record in May 1999.

It isn’t that Kitch is resisting the $3,000 or so it would take to build. It’s that during tornado weather, he’s not home. He’s at the office, which has its own shelter. His wife is there, too, volunteering. When their kids lived at home, they came, as well.

Kitch isn’t stupid, though. When he retires, he said, “I will probably install one.”

GETTING PREPARED

A lot of people in Moore have done just that since the 1999 tornado, with wind speeds greater than 300 mph, killed 43 people in the Oklahoma City area.

Kitch says more than 10 percent of Moore’s homes — about 2,500 — now have a safe room or shelter. Helping homeowners make the investment has been a federal program that has paid up to $2,000 of the cost.

Every person has to make decisions about what to spend on preparedness for natural disasters. Buy a house with a view or live a few blocks from the beach? Build a storm shelter or make friends with a neighbor who has one? Get a weather radio? Buy earthquake insurance?

Towns, too, must set building codes and choose whether to restrict the use of cheap building materials. They decide whether to allow development in flood plains and whether to invest in sophisticated emergency equipment.

These are all down payments on the cost of a disaster. The rule of thumb is that every dollar spent on preparedness saves $4 in recovery costs, according to a report by the National Institute of Building Sciences’ Mutihazard Mitigation Council, which others confirm. That’s $4 taxpayers won’t have to spend.

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