DIY : Design for Disasters – Strategy Dynamics – Medium

Climate has changed and disasters are now a question of when not if

source: NPR


Disasters cost $20B in home repairs each year and over $300B in total costs. As the coastal cities become denser, the impact of a disaster rises. In addition, climate change is causing storms to be more intense. Hurricanes have more rain (3 of the 20 wettest in the last 2 years) and dry forests are causing fires to be larger (many multimillion acre fires in the past few years).

In 2017 there were many multi-billion dollar disasters that hit the US.


Types of Damage

The main types of damage from a storm are via wind, flooding, and fire.


Objects can be thrown, trees can be knocked down, and roofs can be taken off. This video provides an illustration of what can be expected:

Rain and Flooding

Hurricane Florence dropped 40″ of rain, Lane was over 50″ in Hawaii and Harvey over 50″. Flood waters during Harvey were up to 30 feet high. During Florence, the floodwater reached contaminated coal ash and animal manure spreading these toxins through the region.

source: Washington Post during Harvey

Storm Surge Flooding

Storm Surges are the result of winds pushing in the tide and causing the sea level to rise and the wind pushes water inland causing flooding.

source: WeatherStem


One of the most traumatic moments for me as a child was seeing fire jump across the treetops a few hundred yards away from my home. You often hear people speak of fire as if it were alive. Having seen it firsthand, I would agree. To try and reduce the impact of the fire we turned the sprinklers on the yard and also put a sprinkler on our roof.

Design for Disaster

In many parts of the US natural disasters are now more about when they will occur vs. if they will occur. If you live in one of these areas you should design for disaster. Below are a few ways you can minimize the damage from a disaster.


source: google images

It probably goes without saying that flooding is the result of water rising. This can be feet of water in the most extreme cases.

Raise your house — Having a house higher up will lower the impact of a flood, though can raise the exposure to wind. If this isn’t an option consider the following:

  • Waterproof materials — If you can’t raise your house, the next best solution is to ensure water can’t enter your house. (this can add costs. if you aren’t sure you can hire an inspector to check your house)
  • Wiring and HVAC overhead — You know that water and electricity don’t mix well. If you live in a floodplain, consider wiring and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) above the first floor.

Wind Damage

source: google images

Hurricanes, tornados, and large wind storms can cause massive damage. The majority of this damage is from flying objects and knocking down objects.

  • Hurricane Windows — These are designed to handle the impact of 2×4’s hitting the glass at up to 140mph (equal to a Cat 4 hurricane).
  • Storm Shelters—Building an underground storm shelter can be the best way to ensure safety from flying and falling objects. Consult a professional to ensure it is built to protect you and your family.

Forest Fire Damage

source: google images

Most forest fires occur near unoccupied/undeveloped land during dry conditions. Many of these areas have larger yards that could contain brushes and trees that can help to fuel a fire.

  • Landscaping design — a key to limiting fire damage is to remove the dry plants. A review of your landscape design can be helpful to mitigate the risk.
  • Sprinkler system — an interior and/or external sprinkler system can be set up to reduce the impact of a fire in the home.

In Closing

City planners and home designers need to design for disasters in terms of when they will occur, not if. It is commonplace to read quotes like the one below:

Harvey is the third 500-year flood to occur in Houston in three years.
 — Vox story after Harvey

Homes can be built to last major storms due in part to advancements in materials and building practices.



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