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Top Domestic Priorities

Posted by Howard Denson on September 30, 2017 at 12:25 AM

By HOWARD DENSON


.Politics very much aside, folks need to decide what the top priorities are for Americans. A sane health system belongs on the list, but it’s not the top priority for some regions. What is? Let’s look at what is causing American homes, businesses, and families to suffer the most.

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1. Wild fires in the West that devour forests and homes.

2. Tornadoes that sweep across so many states.

3. Floods that wipe out homes, businesses, and towns.

4. Hurricanes that can level entire states or territories.

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Each disaster above can destroy homes or render structures uninhabitable. We can debate the causes (e.g., climate change) and other matters, but the main problem is that families wind up without any homes, electricity, or fresh water.

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Regardless of the disasters, we find a common thread. So many of these homes are mobile or modular homes, all unintentionally designed to be completely destroyed in five to twenty minutes.

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Remedy No. 1, therefore, is for insurance companies and the government to require homes to be as fire resistant as possible. That probably will involve more use of concrete, stone, and brick and perhaps underground or into-incline designs. (Engineers would iron out the fine details.)

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Remedy No. 2 is for engineers to study wind resistance and for authorities to mandate the recommended qualities to be built into homes. These could include a fortified safe room, where the family could shelter during storms. Traditional roofs can be ripped lose or destroyed enough to ruin the contents and harm the occupants. Engineers can determine what type of curved roof (and edges) will work best.

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Remedy No. 3 deals with water, and some North Florida homes survived the recent floods because they have been built on stilts. The family gets to enjoy riverfront property most of the year and have a home to which they may return to normal after the storm. Yes, they have also been imprisoned in those homes when waters rose to within two or three feet of the ground floor, but they didn’t have to tear out wallboard, carpeting, and insulation that had been soaked. Okay, maybe they have to shout, “Would you damned water moccasins get the hell out of our house?”

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In areas where floods and tornadoes overlap, the use of stilts may switch the vulnerability from floods to wind damage. Best solution may be to prevent homes and businesses being built in those specific locations.

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Today’s range of mobile/modular homes simply means in hurricane-vulnerable states emergency housing will need to be made available for each resident of the vulnerable structures. The state affected can do that once, but the state ought to learn a lesson: Require extensive redesigns of such constructions, and, if they can’t be redesigned, forbid their construction.

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Many like the mantra: “The government should stay out of people’s business.” Let people build what they want to, or can afford to, build. That can be an admirable philosophy, except when their structures have been destroyed and the government is required to bail them out. It would make fiscal sense to be like the third little piggy and build a structure that has a decent chance to survive a storm or fire.

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With much of South Florida, Houston, and then Puerto Rico without power, it is also time to see what can be avoided by building saner.

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One suggestion is to utilize more solar (and wind) power. If a house can generate its own power, a family has a better chance of survival. Sufficient power and backup batteries can enable a family to keep its food preserved. Depending on the capacity of self-generating systems, the family may be able to run the fridge, a microwave, a water heater, etc. If the power is limited, the family can unplug the fridge to run one of the other appliances long enough to nuke a meal.

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People suffer when trees fall on electric and telephone lines, not to mention their houses. Lines don’t have to be on poles. They can be buried, although flood conditions may still affect them.

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Power companies have been hostile to solar power and, in Florida, have tried to make solar power usage as constrained as possible. They are as short-sighted as the anvil manufacturer trying to prevent automotive shops from opening and ruining their horseshoe trade. Power companies instead should embrace solar panels and the like, perhaps installing them for their customers, charging to maintain them (to make sure they can withstand winds).

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For houses that can fare better by using stilts, companies can help to retrograde structures or even build systems that can be automatically generated to raise the structure when disaster looms.

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What can Uncle Sam do to help Americans? An alt-righter might simply argue this: Do nothing. Let people take care of themselves. That view lacks compassion and doesn’t understand that, if you infuriate citizens, they will take revenge at the next election.

Politicians love to use the term “czar,” so the Departments of the Interior, Commerce, and Defense could devised permanent floating disaster armadas. It would begin with any aircraft carriers that may be in mothballs. Each AC has been called “a floating city” with a crew in the thousands. It would be a simple matter to convert each into a rescue city. Where would they be based? Charleston, Miami, New Orleans, Houston, and Guantanamo. One ship is apt to be quite close to a landfall area, and others could be there speedily enough.

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The ships would not need extensive crews to maintain jets, so these could be replaced with medics, culinary staff, and the other businesses and services offered in a small city.

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Smaller vessels could also be utilized, if only for, say, communications or power facilities.

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Chats involving Star Trek nerds (yes, I’m one) would feature extensive use of holographic/transporter technology. In that future, a homeowner would buy a device containing enough matter to construct his or her new home. The device is placed at a location, and the homeowner uses a remote to trigger the device. What materializes is a (pick yours) cabin, a Cape Cod home, etc. If you tire of your Cape Cod, you press buttons and it transforms into a get-away home. If you tire of the wall interiors, you press buttons and the colors change or the rooms give a different configuration so that Princess can finally have her own room.

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And if a Cat 5 storm is hours away, you press a button, and the structure is reconfigured to a water-proof, wind-proof, fire-proof safe house.

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The Storm Armada is within our grasp now. My Trek vision will have to wait a few months or centuries.

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Categories: The Human Comedy or Tragedy

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