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What, Where and How to Build?

The pressures to build will likely overcome disaster resilience concerns.

NPR "Up First" had a terrific program Sunday: "The Sunday Story: Time To Leave."

It looks at three communities dealing with different aspects of climate change and how it has impacted what and where to build. The hazards or impacts include wildfire, lack of water, and flooding.

The program is 30 minutes long and mirrors many of the topics I addressed in a Seattle Times op-ed late last year: "Surviving future disaster depends on how we plan and build today."

I'll provide a bit of commentary here, but you should listen to the full story.

As for better wildfire planning to overcome a lack of roads and evacuation routes, it all sounds good on paper, but people don't follow these types of instructions when they panic. True panic only happens when people feel trapped, like in a nightclub fire when they all rush a door that has been chained shut and they can't exit. Wildfires cause people to panic. Orderly evacuation using Reverse 911 or another warning system is utopian thinking in my mind.

Then there is the regulatory loophole in Arizona that allows developers to build hundreds of homes without sufficient water identified for them, because the homes are "build to rent." As noted, the Legislature could not come to an agreement to fix that loophole.

Lastly, in New Jersey, they implemented a home buy-out program for repeated flood properties (using FEMA's program, I'm sure). That was the only true success story of the three examples given.
Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.