In the aftermath of the 4 hurricanes (adding Nate) that hi the US or its territories this summer, there are a couple aftermath action items. Each of these storms has lessons, and show how fragile our build environment may be. It also shows areas of resilience – people, plants, building in some cases…. We also need to understand the utility issues for each. So the action items communities and utilities can address:
Backup power is a must. Test it (your voltage meter may fail). Water and sewer systems mostly have backup power. Check it. Make sure it feeds everything. Remote systems need backup power. Lift stations need to have or have the capability for backup power. It is not acceptable to leave out backup power for cost reasons. The paradigm has changed – this is no longer an acceptable argument.
Nursing homes, hospitals, schools, grocery stores, gas stations, assisted living facilities, group homes, police and fire stations and crisis centers are among the additional places that need to have power. Again, cost is not an acceptable consideration. They need to have backup power. One ALF in Hollywood, FL killed 12 helpless residents because while they had backup power, it did not feed the AC system. Dehydration and death followed. There is absolutely no reason this should have occurred. It is negligent that we do not have laws requiring essential facilities to have backup power that includes AC systems. Gas stations and grocery stores are included because it is essential that people have access to fuel and food.
185 mph winds exceed those many facilities are designed for. Water and sewer utilities often have planned for Category 5 storms. If not, we need to rethink that and strengthen facilities. People depend on having water and sewer. Southeast Florida only had one utility that “failed” during Irma. A testament to the resilience of these systems. But we only had a Cat 1 or 2 winds.
Which leads to the final lesson – clearing vegetation from above water and sewer lines, and away from power lines must occur. Residents need to understand that the trees are a hazard to them. I like trees, but in the right place. Landscape codes must be revised to reflect the right tree, right place, no tree above a utility. These guidelines exist. They are not followed because people argue for having much greener communities, starting with the right-of-way. We need to rethink and re-educate. Trees in yards is great. One might keep them trimmed so they do not fall on the house. Trees in the right-of-way, not so much.
Let’s get on it.