Acceptable Losses

The original post below was written out of frustration 1 year ago but, I never got around to publishing it. With yesterday’s devastating tornado in Oklahoma I’m once again astounded and disgusted by our societal complacency with the “acceptable losses” of both life and property that occur annually in Tornado Alley and other disaster prone areas of the country.

The reason I refer to these tragedies as acceptable losses is that they could easily be avoided by building structures that can withstand the challenges of the local environment. Even though the expense of doing so is negligible, we continue to build and, more disgustingly, re-build inadequate structures in these regions that predictably experience violent weather.

We have the means to prevent this but we continue to accept these losses instead.

Original article below:

I was watching the news this morning and saw several stories about the recent tornados.

In many of the interviews people were commenting on how it was tragic that houses were destroyed and lives were lost. Or that it was a miracle that someone lived through this.

There is a reason that Tornado Alley got that name and it’s not because they occasionally happen. Tornados occur in this region with the same predictability that summer heat comes to Arizona.

The primary purpose of a house is to protect its inhabitants from local environmental hazards.

  • In Arizona our summers are HOT. A house needs to keep us cool.
  • In California there are earthquakes. A house shouldn’t fall to pieces when one hits.
  • In Tornado Alley there are…tornados. A house should be able to withstand high winds and flying debris.
For some reason though the idea that it’s “too expensive” to build a tornado proof house seems to be commonly accepted. One idea that never seems to surface is to build houses that are more aerodynamic. Instead everyone seems insistent on building houses with large flat walls and overhangs that catch the wind like sails.

If you watched the video in the previous link you can hear the screaming and the fear of those who are literally praying for their lives. A 20% increase in construction cost to never have to worry about:

  • dying in a tornado
  • losing family members
  • losing all of your possessions, especially family heirlooms
  • having to rebuild your house afterward and live in a shelter in the mean time

Seems like a prudent expenditure to me.

I guess what it really comes down to is that people in this country are extremely driven by short term “savings” and ignore long term costs, even if they are far higher. Having insurance companies pay to rebuild the same flimsy houses every few years is so much cheaper in the short term that any lives lost are worth the short term cost savings.

Disaster proof houses

Less practical links


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