Does Dauphin Island Deserve Another Chance?

Dauphin Island is a barrier island located three miles south of the mouth of Mobile Bay in the Gulf of Mexico. According to the (Town of Dauphin Island) there are approximately 1300 permanent residents. The island is approximately 14 miles long and 1 ¾ miles wide at the widest point. The eastern six miles are inhabited while the western 8 miles are undeveloped and privately owned.

During a news conference at the National Oceanic Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) National Hurricane Center, Deputy Secretary of Commerce David A. Sampson noted, “Preparation is the key message that President Bush wants to convey during National Hurricane Preparedness Week. The impact from these storms extends well beyond coastal areas so it is vital that residents in hurricane prone areas get ready in advance of the hurricane season.”

“For the 2006 north Atlantic hurricane season, NOAA is predicting 13 to 16 named storms, with eight to 10 becoming hurricanes, of which four to six could become ‘major’ hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher,” added retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.

On average, the north Atlantic hurricane season produces 11 named storms, with six becoming hurricanes, including two major hurricanes. In 2005, the Atlantic hurricane season contained a record 28 storms, including 15 hurricanes. Seven of these hurricanes were considered “major,” of which a record four hit the United States. “Although NOAA is not forecasting a repeat of last year’s season, the potential for hurricanes striking the U.S. is high,” added Lautenbacher.

There are several leading disaster prevention experts that believe, that the US on the wrong track in terms of managing the aftermath of hurricanes. “We’re actually making decisions in this country that are the cause of our national disasters becoming larger and larger and larger. Not the natural event itself, but the impact of those natural events,” says Dennis S. Mileti, one of the nation’s leading disaster prevention experts. I concur with Dr. Mileti, faculty at University of Colorado at Boulder. His research comprises models of human-environment relationships; risk communication and warnings; policies and practices to make society more resilient to natural hazards.

It is my humble opinion that Dauphin Island is one of the 20,000 communities (FEMA) that should be given a second look, when re-building efforts are taken into consideration, especially in a high-risk area like Dauphin Island. Of course, this is a political football for Congress and respective state legislatures. The mere suggestion of interrupting people’s lives is serious, but something must be done, due to the spiraling costs to taxpayers, federal government, insurance industry and other [states].

According to Dan Brancaccio, Host of PBS “NOW”, the US has spent and will spend billions on reconstruction efforts related Hurricanes Katrina and Ivan. Eventually, these costs are transferred to the taxpayer. The Mitigation Division, a component of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), manages the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The three components of the NFIP are:

* Flood Insurance
* Floodplain Management
* Flood Hazard Mapping

Nearly 20,000 communities across the United States and its territories participate in the NFIP by adopting and enforcing floodplain management ordinances to reduce future flood damage. In exchange, the NFIP makes Federally backed flood insurance available to homeowners, renters, and business owners in these communities. Community participation in the NFIP is voluntary. Moreover, flood insurance may designed to provide an alternative to disaster assitance to help reduce costs of repairing damage to buidlings.
Flood damage is reduced by nearly $1 billion a year through communities implementing sound floodplain management requirements and property owners purchasing of flood insurance. Additionally, buildings constructed in compliance with NFIP building standards suffer approximately 80 percent less damage annually than those not built in compliance. And, every $3 paid in flood insurance claims saves $1 in disaster assistance payments (FEMA).

In addition, to the direct and indirect costs related to “Katrina” and “Ivan”, there is also the fraud component. According to the Associate Press, (June 16, 2006), a congressional study presented Wednesday concluded that FEMA may have been bilked out of as much as $1.4 billion after Hurricanes “Katrina” and “Rita” last year. Even though the General Accounting Office staticial analysis revealed that the statisitcal analysis to estimate the fraud, saying it was 95% confident that improper and potentially fraudulent payments were between $600 million and $1.4 billion — or as much as 16% of the individual assistance after the two hurricanes. This is considerable for the taxpayer. Not too mention the other states that have taken in displaced residents from Katrina.

Enough is enough. This country is in dire need of policy change as it relates to this subject matter. Will it take another “Katrina” to realize the real “risk” in relative terms to our society at large? Or will we continue on this slippery slope of rewarding “these” communities for natural disasters?

References

Town of Dauphin Island. [Online]. Welcome to Dauphin Island. Retrieved July 7, 2006 from http://www.townofdauphinisland.org

Brancaccio, D & Moyers, B. (July, 2006). Still In Harm’s Way. NOW Television Program on Public Broadcast Service.

National Oceanic Administration Agency. [Online].NOAA PREDICTS VERY ACTIVE 2006 NORTH ATLANTIC HURRICANE SEASON
Residents in Hurricane Prone Areas Urged to Make Preparations. Retrieve on July 7, 2006 from http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2006/s2634.htm

Federal Emergency Management Agencey. [Online]. The National Flood Insurance Program. Retrieved on July 6, 2006 http://www.fema.gov/plan/prevent

Associated Press. (July 6, 2006) [Online]. FEMA fraud debated.Congress, agency spar over extent of hurricane cases. Retrieved on July 8, 2006 from http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060615/NEWS07/606150346/1009

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