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Why Do Americans Choose to Live in Danger Zones?

There are things that money cannot buy, and despite being one of the richest countries in the world, the United States is extremely vulnerable to disasters. Regardless of the amount of money pumped into the system, it seems that the devastating impact of disasters continues. In fact, based on recent research, Americans are becoming more vulnerable by the day.

One of the biggest vulnerabilities that we face in the U.S. is where we hang our hats. In the face of the warnings and continued impacts of deadly storms, we remain in dangerous areas. Some of the most disaster prone areas are also where people are lining up to live. The coastal areas, which carry some of the highest price tags, are also predisposed to hurricanes. The vast expanse of the United States also has its residents encountering volcanos, earthquakes, and even tsunamis. The large cities on the coasts are consistently growing larger. “The 10 largest metropolitan areas on the coast alone have grown by almost 5 million people since 2010, an increase of nearly 7 percent.”[1]

What is the solution to this vulnerability? You are never going to get people to stop wanting to live near the beach, or in sunny California or Hawaii. What about creating new codes and permits to help save lives and property? Many areas are creating additional requirements for new buildings going up in high-risk areas. If you drive through Biloxi Mississippi today, it looks vastly different than it did pre-Katrina. What was previously homes north of a million dollars are now empty lots, because they cannot afford to rebuild. The increased codes and permits stopped residential development.

There are definitely things that money cannot buy, but it may be that the only way to decrease vulnerability connected to where we choose live, is the almighty dollar. You might be hard pressed to stop someone from vacationing on the beach, but you might be able to keep them from living there the other 51 weeks per year.


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