Reflecting on Security & the Top 5 Mitigation Investments Your Community Can Make

As an economic developer and a former entrepreneur, I’m a positive thinker and one who tends to see the glass as half full rather than half empty. But as a single mom with two daughters, I developed an internal mantra that said “only the paranoid survive.” When I built my house on a hill, I invested in a 70-foot retaining wall to keep my home from sliding off the property. I would have much preferred to spend the money on furniture, landscaping and family vacations, but I learned to value that critical decision; while I had been anticipating mudslides, little did I know that that wall would save our home at least half a dozen times from wildfires! Seeing the effects of droughts and wildfires, every so often we would also get out the machetes and cut a fire break to separate our home from the jungle — but it was truly the wall that saved us.

Because we lived in the most typhoon-prone region of the world in the Mariana Islands, we built our home out of cement — not wood — adding thicker windows, a gas stove, and a water catchment system to capture rainwater in the event the city water didn’t come in. We could live without power (and we did on numerous occasions — I never did buy that generator I’d hoped to afford), but there was no way we could live without water. The rainwater we stored underground proved essential year after year during the dry season and it was used by firefighters more than once during wildfires. We did experience typhoon damage over the decade we lived on the hill, but the structure remained solid and the new owner reports that the house survived 2018’s Super Typhoon Yutu without a hitch.

Especially living in such a vulnerable place, we were extremely fortunate to have the experience of designing our home. But what about the community systems and services we most rely on, the more vulnerable people in our community who can’t afford such dwellings? These also need protection and it is our duty as community leaders to weigh in and ensure that essential investments in infrastructure are made.

FEMA has just published a terrific graphic showing the top 5 most effective mitigation investments communities can make. They include Acquisitions, Flood Control, Elevations, Utility and Infrastructure Protection and Safe Rooms/Wind Shelters. Don’t wait for the next hurricane, typhoon, tornado, flood or wildfire season. Which one or more of these things should be in your comprehensive plan today?

Lynn KnightComment