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Preparing for the Worst (Weather)

Chris Horkachuck

Newtown, CT

In recent years, it has become increasingly apparent that the East Coast, from its largest cities to its smallest towns, is exceptionally unprepared for natural disasters.  From the billions of dollars in damage we incurred from Hurricane Sandy to the blizzard debacle in Atlanta just a few days ago, our leaders have either consistently failed or actively chosen not to protect our infrastructure from the damaging effects of Mother Nature at its worst. Despite a noticeable increase in violent weather the past few years, our public works organizations have always been one step behind, to detriment of us citizens who rely on them to provide the services we need to survive. And even in the face of the ever-increasing frequency of disasters like these, the organizations that are vital to our preparation and subsequent recovery from them clearly do not have the funds, equipment, or ability to adequately do their job, even with the lessons learned from past failings. So, how do we fix this problem? How can we assure ourselves and our loved ones that the next time a killer hurricane or massive nor’easter passes through our area, we will still be able to travel on the roads and get heat and electricity? Well, a good start would be increasing those companies and administrations’ budgets.

It’s certainly no secret that our economy is in rough shape. With our national debt at over $17 trillion and an unemployment rate of 7.3%, it would be logical to think that putting money into something as trivial as public works maintenance would be stupid, or even impossible. However, when discussing budgets and revenue, one would have to consider the economic impacts of these events. Total damage for Hurricane Sandy was $65 billion. Hurricane Irene before it cost $15.6 billion. While relative to our total debt, that doesn’t seem like too much, you can be assured that it is. Plus, that’s not even factoring the individual lost wages from people who couldn’t make it to work for the weeks following. If we could prevent such extensive damages from happening, or at least keep it to a minimum and clean it up with haste, those numbers would drop substantially in future storms. People can get out of their house sooner, which means they can go to work and provide for their family sooner, which means that they can boost the economy by shopping sooner. If kickstarting the process means hiring more workers and purchasing more efficient equipment, I firmly believe the cost would be worth it when storms like Sandy no longer even phase us, and we don’t panic every time the weatherman says a blizzard is coming. The only way for this to become a reality is to allow those maintenance companies to grow and expand with government money.

But again, I can see that some of you still want to know where that money could possibly come from. Well, let’s take a look at some of the other government budgets, shall we. I think a particularly interesting one is our military budget, which currently sits at a lofty $530 billion. Now, why in the world do we need that much money in our armed forces when we aren’t really involved in any major conflicts at this point? Surely some could be spared to protect our homeland from its actual number 1 threat, destructive weather. I’m not here to debate the necessity of  a strong army, but do we really need to allocate $11.4 billion to the development of the F-35, a strike fighter jet that has continually proven to be expensive, difficult to control, and unreliable? Wouldn’t that be better spent stormproofing our buildings and power lines, or expanding our fleet of snow plows so the people working on this project can get there in the first place? If the first priority of the United States Armed Forces is to protect the American people, they should know that right now, the best way to do that is to give up a portion of their budget in order for them to be as prepared as possible for their largest and most unpredictable enemy.

I remember how terrible the experience of Sandy’s aftermath was. No electricity, no heat, no flushing the toilets for more than a week. It was miserable, and I was one of the lucky ones. I could’ve been sleeping in some homeless shelter in Queens because my house was swept away, or searching for one of the 78 American victims of the storm’s violence. Just the other day, I could’ve been sleeping in my wrecked car in Atlanta for several days, or forced to spend a night in school. I never want to have to do that, and I certainly don’t want anyone else to have to do that. As Americans, we should expect a certain degree of preparedness and helpfulness from our government in times of crisis, a degree which I feel has been sorely lacking during the more severe recent occurrences. That’s why I plead that our “wise” leaders pay attention, and shift around their budgets so the various disaster relief and preparation organizations actually have the resources they need to keep people and property safe and secure during emergencies. If we can avoid blacking out all of Lower Manhattan or bring the entire population of Atlanta to a standstill, then in God’s name, why don’t we? This measure can save property, save livelihoods, and save lives. Increasing the budget of organizations like FEMA and the Red Cross will make certain our readiness for whatever Mother Nature plans to throw at us next.

 

Sources:

Plumer, Brad. “America’s Staggering Defense Budget, in Charts.” Washingtonpost.com. TheWashington Post, 7 Jan. 2013. Web. 29 Jan. 2014.

Severson, Kim. “Atlanta Officials Gamble on Storm and Lose, and Others Pay the Price.”New York Times. The New York Times Company, 30 Jan. 2014. Web. 30 Jan. 2014.

Sharp, Tim. “Superstorm Sandy: Facts About the Frankenstorm.” LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 27 Nov. 2012. Web. 28 Jan. 2014.

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