8 myths: Why residents fail to prepare for coastal disasters

A handbook for homeowner’s demystifies why residents are complacent about preparing for coastal disasters and provides guidance on property protection


The Homeowner’s Handbook to Prepare for Coastal Hazards begins with eight common myths on why people get complacent about preparing their families and shelters for coastal disasters. In the United States, storm events are expected year to year, and emergency management agencies prepare for them by training for them, conducting drills and exercises and amending and conducting emergency planning for communities.

Public safety is also subject to its own set of emergency planning myths. The good news is that — like public service agencies charged with emergency planning — complacency among residents can also be addressed by cultivating a safety mindset that encourages action on emergency preparedness.

It’s not just people in Massachusetts that are subject to the following 8 homeowner myths in the state’s handbook (which can be reviewed below). Consider these mythbusting facts about coastal disasters to help address barriers to resident complacency anywhere on the coast.

#1 ‘I survived Hurricane Bob, Irene & Sandy

People may have the impression that they do not have to prepare more than they did for hurricanes they recovered from. The impacts to Massachusetts from these storms could have been much more severe.

#2 ‘If a disaster occurs, it won’t be that bad’

In 1991, Hurricane Bob caused more than $1.5 billion in damage, mostly in Massachusetts. More recent hurricanes have caused more significant damage in other states.

#3 ‘I don’t live near the coast, so I am safe’

Hurricane force winds can extend more than 100 miles from the center of a storm.

#4 ‘Even if I prepare for a storm, my home could be damaged’

Safety measures implemented on structures — such as protecting windows to prevent shatter and water intrusion — can help reduce or avoid significant damage.

#5 ‘If my home or property is damaged by a natural hazard event, government programs will provide assistance’

Government compensation is evaluated on a county-wide basis. After a disaster, a government may be inundated with applications for help, causing time delays.

#6 ‘My house survived Hurricanes Bob and Sandy, so I do not need to retrofit for hurricanes’

Despite greater devastation in other states, Hurricane Bob was a Category 2 storm and Hurricane Sandy was a tropical storm in Massachusetts. Storms with lower wind speeds and smaller surges may be below coastal building code deign levels — but stronger coastal storms are always possible in any coastal state or region.

#7 ‘If a natural hazard event occurs, there is nothing I can do’

Preparation has been shown to make a difference in minimizing property damage.

#8 ‘Strengthening my house is too expensive and not worth the effort’

The cost of hurricane clips or window coverings, roof bracing and foundation protection can be offset by insurance premium reductions, and may be small in comparison to the damage from a coastal disaster event suffered without protection.

Homeowner’s Manual on Preparing for Coastal Disasters

The handbook below provides basic information on coastal storms, flooding and other hazards to help reduce risks to people and property. Included are:

The handbook was developed the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), Barnstable County and the two Massachusetts Sea Grant programs, MIT Sea Grant (MITSG) and Woods Hole Sea Grant (WHSG), with technical support from Delaware Sea Grant and Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant.

Review and download the coastal disasters emergency planning and property protection manual:

Homeowner’s Handbook to Prepare for Coastal Hazards by Ed Praetorian on Scribd

Andrea Fox is Editor of Gov1.com and Senior Editor at Lexipol. She is based in Massachusetts.

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