Rebuilding from the Hurricane Devastation
George Seiler, Ph.D.
Colonel, USAF (retired)
The Hurricane damage to Texas, Florida, Puerto Rice and American Virgin Islands was horrific. Brave men and women risked life and limb to save those in peril, and reduced what could have been a much larger loss of life.
We are a nation of sound bites, of newsworthy happenings. The hurricane, the devastation from water and wind, all played live coverage for about a week. But now the cameras have other places to point. The folks remaining have the daunting task of rebuilding their lives as well as their habitats. For example, the charitable unit Mercy Chef had this to say nearly a month ago:
“Hardship among storm victims is worsening.
Where we are stationed, we are surrounded by working-class neighborhoods with many people living paycheck to paycheck. At this point, most have missed one to two pay periods and are just now returning home. Their refrigerators are full of rotten food from the power outages, and they have no money to buy more. As word spreads, these communities are coming to us for help. After days of surviving in flooded homes, without power, residents in Collier County will likely loose water access again today.
“The wastewater collections system is at critical mass. Under no circumstances should residents be using dishwashers, clothes washers or otherwise putting water into the sewer system. Due to the high volume of water entering the wastewater collection system, the county is experiencing) sanitary sewer overflows. If water usage is not significantly reduced it may be necessary to reduce water pressure or even temporarily shut off the water supply.
“Sadly, the county’s solution for poor drainage is cutting the water supply for thousands of residents. These are the kind of decisions that are having to be made. The media may have moved on, but unspeakable things are still happening in Florida. Mercy Chef is serving 12000 meals a day. “
— (Gary LeBlanc, Founder and President, Mercy Chefs, 9/16/17 Report)
But how long can these organizations remain before they exhaust that initial rush for funding, and the reality sets in that hotel rooms are not only expensive, but not conducive to family life. So, what is a good plan, not tried before, to give the victims the dignity they deserve, along with the resources to begin a new chapter in their struggles.
If the microcosm concept makes sense, it could be expanded to every place that it makes sense. It won’t solve all problems, but can make a large difference in recovery.
Following is a suggested plan of action based on my observations and experience in hurricane devastation since the early 1960’s as a resident of the Gulf Coast and relative of many who have been devastated in hurricanes.
Instead of the trailers, FEMA is banking on Manufactured housing units to assist in the relief effort for the long term. For example, remaining from the floods last year in the Baton Rouge area, approximately 3,000 families were still living in the “manufactured housing units”. But they are much better than the FEMA trailers of the Katrina vintage.
Rebuilding can and needs to be done on a community basis. We need to give these displaced folks a sense of dignity, a way to feel their pride in trying to regain some normalcy in their lives before the storm,
The practical problem to be addressed is this: while the need in the long run will only slowly ebb, and many needs may only slowly be fulfilled, families need to feel a part of a community to assist in regaining their pride and dignity, and not solely depend on government action for years and years.
The experiment starts with a test group of about 300 destroyed homes, where the water has receded, and which are in close proximity to form a community. Supply each home with a FEMA manufactured housing unit, parked next to their damaged home. The electricity to the unit can go through the same meter as the damaged home. The water to the unit is the same, when potable, as to the home. The plumbing waste from the unit goes down the same sewer as the home. The gas lines are from the home to the unit. The unit has the same postal address as the home had. The school bus runs the same route and gets this community off to school.
The advantage here is that the community survives, and neighbor will help neighbor rebuild. The American ingenuity will once again shine. While not able to go to a job, the owner will try to salvage, and rebuild all day, and those who still can get to a job will have the nights and weekends to try to salvage what they can. The alternative is to have the community dispersed across myriad shelters. The community then no longer exists. The people feel helpless and abandoned, with nothing to do but just wait until the rebuilding gets done for them, the people lose hope and despair sets in.
Think about our alternative: the people live in the same neighborhood, and take charge of moving from the temporary units to their homes. In the interim, while awaiting repair or rebuilding of their damaged homes, they have a place to live that they can call home, with neighbors they recognize and help each other, and encourage each other as they exchange their stories of survival. The children have the same friends, the postal address is the same, and one more very important thing. The Red Cross can drop off 300 baskets of food once a week, and the folks can cook the way they like it, rather than the Red Cross cooking about 600 meals (assuming a household of two) three times a day, which will give the Red Cross a chance to help in the rebuild effort.
We began with a community, we watched heroic efforts of volunteers and FEMA to save neighbors, and now we are ready to give dignity to those trying to rebuild, by establishing as quickly as we can, an opportunity to get back on their feet, without fully resting on the government or the hospitality of their friends and neighbors. They will take pride in the rebuilding, and enjoy the fellowship of their neighbors. Most of all, their hope is restored along with their homes.
Once validated, this procedure could be spread as needed to Texas, Louisiana, and eventually to Puerto Rico, and the American Virgin Islands.
Copyright: Richfield Press, Ltd.