SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Special Report

April 28, 2013

Money spent beforehand blunts the impact of disasters

Gayland Kitch doesn’t feel a bit sheepish about not having a storm cellar, even though he is the director of emergency management in Moore, Okla., which faced one of the most violent tornadoes on record, with wind speeds greater than 300 mph, 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.”

A lot of people in Moore have done just that since the 1999 tornado 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: 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.

In perhaps the closest thing to a bailout for those of us too small to matter, the government increasingly covers the costs of disasters.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Special Report

Local News
  • 140765_SN_DLE_FESSENDEN4 Special Spaces transforms two downstairs rooms into playroom for Riley Fessenden

    BEVERLY -- What happens when the perfect kid-friendly playroom appears in your house overnight? Beverly's Fessenden kids were mostly speechless when they returned from seeing "The Little Mermaid" on Saturday and got their first look at the playroom t

    July 28, 2014 10 Photos

  • Beverly Hospital courier loses patients’ lab forms

    BEVERLY -- A courier for Beverly Hospital last month lost lab request forms for 54 patients that included names, health insurance identification numbers and, in some cases, Social Security numbers. The courier misplaced the forms, which were in a zip

    July 28, 2014

  • Big plans for three parks in the Point neighborhood SALEM -- One will be overhauled, another created from scratch, and a third will get a spiffed-up community garden. It's a good time to be a park in the Point neighborhood. The densely packed area just south of the city's downtown is on the verge of i

    July 28, 2014

  • Peabody could see school choice profit next year PEABODY -- After three years, the city's schools are projected not only to break even on school choice, but actually make a $30,000 profit. School officials expect to lose just under $300,000 in state aid next year for students who opt to attend scho

    July 28, 2014

  • 140723_SN_DLE_SALVARMY2 Dennis and Susan Knight take over Salem Salvation Army operation

    SALEM -- It was Christmas Eve in Sanford, Maine, but 8-year-old Dennis Knight and his three sisters had good reason to be short on holiday spirit: Their mom and dad had warned them there would be no Christmas that year. The family couldn't afford it.

    July 28, 2014 3 Photos