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
  • 140724_SN_DLE_PEM1-1 Peabody Essex Museum severs ties with Gordon College

    SALEM -- The Peabody Essex Museum announced Thursday that it had ended its longstanding collaboration with Gordon College and its museum studies program, saying the school's attitude toward gay and lesbian individuals conflicts with its fundamental values.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo 7 Stories

  • Cop wants pension credit for lifeguard work BOXFORD -- A veteran Boxford police officer is trying to boost his retirement pension by getting credit for his summer job as a lifeguard nearly four decades ago. In a letter to a state appeals board, John Iannazzo said working as a lifeguard for the

    July 25, 2014

  • 140724_SN_DLE_BRIMBAL3 Residents skeptical of Brimbal Avenue plans

    BEVERLY -- Neighborhood residents turned out in healthy numbers Thursday for an open meeting to see and discuss new design plans for the Brimbal Avenue/Route 128 interchange. Concerns ranged from biking and pedestrian safety to tax dollars spending a

    July 25, 2014 6 Photos 9 Stories

  • 140724_SN_DLE_GRIFFIN6 Peabody's new police chief receives upbeat welcome

    PEABODY -- More than 100 family, friends, well-wishers, city officials and police officers lined Wiggin Auditorium in City Hall yesterday afternoon to applaud the swearing in of former Salem Capt. Thomas Griffin as the city's new police chief. "Today

    July 24, 2014 8 Photos

  • 140721_GT_MSP_MARKETBASKET_04 [Duplicate] Ousted CEO bids for Market Basket Arthur T. Demoulas' offer to buy the rest of the supermarket chain embroiled in a widespread protest and boycott was met with elation, and then a reality check, protest organizers said Thursday. Demoulas announced his offer Wednesday night, though he

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo