The Aftermath

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SIX MONTHS AFTER HURRICANE KATRINA; EIGHTEEN MONTHS AFTER HURRICANE IVAN; AND THREE MONTHS UNTIL HURRICANE SEASON 2006

It’s been half a year since Hurricane Katrina inflicted her furious wrath upon the Gulf coast and mortified the entire nation. It’s been a year and a half since Hurricane Ivan rocked our world on a very personal level. Adding insult to injury, Pensacola Beach was slammed by Hurricane Dennis last year, as well. For the collective survivors, the wounds each storm inflicted are still open and sore, not yet a scar. I can see the exhaustion etched across the faces of my coastal neighbors; I feel the pinch when making repairs as building expenses continue to escalate. The fearful anticipation is palpable as hurricane season draws ever closer and the predictions are even more dire than last year’s. Recovery is illusive. 034_DD1

We just spent two beautifully warm weeks in Miami Beach. Although I definitely prefer the Emerald Coast’s beaches, it was wonderful to go to the beach and not be assaulted with reminders of hurricane seasons past. Not usually an advocate of high maintenance manicured grounds, I actually found the ordered lawns refreshing, a nice change from the chaos we have experienced over the last several months. On our return trip, as soon as we reached the hurricane affected areas, the lesion was ripped open, yet again. What I am trying to say is that a year and half later, we have good days and bad days. I’ll be going about my day and suddenly be overwhelmed with emotions. And our trauma was minimal compared to so many.

Hurricanes are life changing events – period. You cannot be affected by a storm and not be affected down to your very soul’s core. After the storms, I reevaluated my entire life, asking: what is essential to my well-being; what is a restraint; what is worth saving and keeping in my life; what doesn’t really matter in the whole scheme of things; what do I value and why? Examining my life helps me to heal, to find purpose in the madness, and to make sense out of the senseless.

But, for a community to heal, both emotionally and physically, the need for decisive and clear direction from our leaders, is imperative. Those directly involved with the storm are in shock and suffer from post traumatic stress. This includes local officials. We have to have compassion for our officials and remember that they are humans who are traumatized – just like you are. I can’t imagine having to make decisions for my family and everyone else’s too. When my kids are frightened and scared, I remember that the officials’ families need reassurance, as well. So many demands in so many directions, how do they do it?

Everyone’s entire world is turned upside down and all parameters of normalcy have dissipated in the rising winds. I am not pointing fingers or placing blame at anyone’s feet. It’s unfair to insist that the local officials should have known what to expect. Today, they’d know what to expect. Hindsight is a valuable tool. But, at the time of Hurricane Katrina, the local leaders’ personal lives and the lives of their constituents faced complete annihilation with a natural disaster the size of Katrina. How do you prepare for the unfathomable?

Obviously, at the state and federal levels: where the command stations are not threatened by rising water and relentless wind; where food, water, fuel, and shelter are not an issue; where difficult decision making is not complicated by personal tragedy; and where dependable communication centers can disperse information. The magnitude of coordination needed for a natural disaster of Katrina’s caliber was unfathomable. From the individual to the President, no one believed such tragedy could occur. This tragedy had been imagined by FEMA officials, scientists, meteorologists, etc. The scenario had been portrayed in various magazines and programs. The big What If. Yet, no one could believe. The inability to comprehend what was needed to prepare for Hurricane Katrina increased the tragedy factor. Now, the pertinent question is: If there was a repeat performance this year, would the outcome be any different.

033_DD0The outcome could be different, better or worse, on a large scale or on a very local level. The decisions made today decide which outcome prevails. If you are rebuilding, is it another “temporary structure” that will need rebuilding after another hurricane? Or will you utilize stronger, better building techniques? Domes aren’t the only answer. There are elements we used in building the Dome of a Home that can be incorporated into conventional structures. The foam we used can be used to increase a conventional structure’s roof line and walls. An added benefit to the increased strength is the energy efficiency and the sound-proofing of the building. Another plus is the lack of fiberglass insulation to grow hidden mold and mildew in the walls. We are watching a superb structure being built on Pensacola Beach by the Elks Lodge. It is all concrete – even the walls! They are being put together like a 3-D puzzle. When we were in Miami, the construction techniques are noticeably different than the ones here. Absolutely no wood was being used in any of the construction of homes or businesses along the coast. It was all concrete.

It is vital that our local emergency personnel have somewhere safe and secure to coordinate local efforts at the site of the disaster.
A place that is pre-stocked for a disaster, natural or man-initiated.
A place that is Base of Operations.
A place that has been pre-determined to be safe, available, and ready with all necessary supplies and equipment to handle an emergency effectively.
A place that is a haven for the officials and personnel needed to re-establish the infrastructure after the disaster.
A place that is home away from home, an office away from the office, a station away from the station.

And those places should be a monolithic dome.
A dome would allow the necessary personnel to have the confidence in the coordination efforts, without fear that they will unnecessarily be placing their lives at risk to do their jobs. Domes have proven themselves to be the safest structure available when faced with earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, and radiation fallout.

Evacuation shelters should be able to shelter the public from the threat outside. Many storm shelters could not withstand a Category 5 hurricane or F-5 tornado. The result is a large number of people gathered in one unsafe place – a potential mass grave. Why not give tax credits to businesses, churches and schools that build monolithic domes that can be used as an evacuation shelter? Not only do they have a cost effective, energy friendly building, they also receive a reward for their efforts. I grew up in Texas and was always terrified when the tornado warnings were issued. If I had known that the school’s gymnasium was a “safe building” dome, my anxiety would have been considerably less acute.

Hurricane Katrina caught the attention of the entire nation with its surreal drama. At times I almost believed I was watching a B-movie on the Sci-Fi Channel, but then the human tragedy would pierce the numbing hurricane statistics. Numbing because I could not absorb what I was hearing – could not believe the stark reality of the disaster.
I am relieved to see that the news media is still covering these tragedies six months later. Lately, I have seen several programs discussing better building techniques using better building materials. This is encouraging and exactly the point Mark and the NBC news crew were trying to make when they stayed in the Dome of a Home for Hurricane Ivan. The lessons from the past two hurricane seasons do not need to be so easily forgotten, so easily dismissed. This is a story that has far reaching implications economically, socially, politically, etc.

While I am on my soapbox, I would like to encourage our legislatures to reign in the insanity of the insurance debacle that is bankrupting businesses and creating homeless families. The wind insurance argues that it was flood damage; the flood insurance company insists it was wind damage. And while they argue, the client lives in limbo or worse. Months go by, no money to make repairs so that you can move back home. In short, this is what happens:

Storm hits, your home is damaged, find a place to live temporarily.
File an insurance claim so that you can make repairs and move back home.
Wind insurance denies claim, flood damage blamed.
Flood denies claim, says to contact wind insurance company.
Home deteriorates even further. More and more extensive repairs
will be needed because it has been so long since the storm and
you have no money for repairs.
Bank accounts dwindle as you pay your mortgage on a damaged home,
your rent on the temporary space, and (love this one) the next
year’s premiums for your wind and flood insurance. I want to scream
at them, “Just take my premiums out of the claim you owe me. I can’t
pay the premiums until you pay my claim.”
Still waiting on insurance claims to be paid, and the new hurricane season is here.
This is ridiculous!!! We buy insurance as a safeguard. Supposedly, the insurance companies work for us. Yeah, right. They have become like enemies. Our premiums are due on time or we are dropped. Why don’t the insurance companies have a designated time to pay or else be required to pay exorbitant interest on the money they are withholding? After all, I am paying a high interest rate on the money I have to borrow just to survive until the insurance companies pay the claim. If they pay the claim….
And now, it is up to us to prove how and what affected our homes in a storm. Okay…. so we stay and film the storm as proof or …. Or what? What exactly are our alternatives? This is beyond belief: you have to prove whether it was wind or flood that took your house. It’s no longer the insurance companies’ responsibility to determine this. So, the policyholder will have to have a film or hire an engineer???

We need one insurance policy that covers our home. Period. This would eliminate the opposing companies pointing the finger continuously at the other. This bickering makes money for the insurance companies as our claims set in their accounts drawing interest. But, it bankrupts families and businesses. Even if it is legal, it is morally wrong. Give us one company to deal with. We are under enough stress without having to fight for what is owed to us. Hell, with the stress this inflicts, they should be paying psychiatric care, too. We paid the premiums, pay the claims.

And before you write about your tax dollars covering our damages, please realize that this is not the case. It is a closed system. Those who pay in are eligible to file claims. No one pays in that isn’t a policyholder. One-third of all people and businesses in the United States are located in a flood zone. An average of 1000 people a day move to the United State’s coasts. We need viable building plans and community leadership as the population continues to grow.

With each hurricane strike, the hurricane season seems longer and longer.The “off-season” seems shorter and shorter, each time we spend those six months repairing from the previous six months. And the off-season is filled with TV programs and magazine articles about hurricanes past and what the future may hold. Sometimes, I watch them with morbid fascination, sometimes it’s too painful and I have to change the channel. The Weather Channel’s Storm Stories about Grand Lagoon is a tear-jerker I have only been able to watch once. As if there wasn’t enough real human drama, the TV is filled with “What If…” programs: Yellowstone; earthquake in San Francisco; hurricane in New York City. AAAAGGGGHHHH! I want to scream! But, I confess, I do watch them occasionally. LOL

Last week, we were watching Discovery Channel’s EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HURRICANES. It was a program I eagerly watched, seeing if I could glean anymore information about the upcoming hurricane season. All of sudden, Mark and I are on the screen strolling down the beach in front of our house. Then, there is an interview with Mark about the structural properties of the Dome. I was impressed by the graphics explaining why the Dome of a Home was better capable of withstanding a raging hurricane. I was impressed!!! with the program and with Mark. The realization of Mark’s dream and the reality of its hurricane resistant qualities never ceases to amaze me.

The Dome of a Home was completed less than three years ago. When we began this project in 2001, our mission statement was:

Our mission is to help reduce the suffering associated with the destruction and
loss of one’s home in a natural disaster. We want to help promote awareness
of the superior building technologies that can alleviate unnecessary losses.
Many of the new technologies are more energy efficient and environmentally
friendly than their predecessors allowing the construction of structures while
protecting and preserving the delicate balance of nature.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow, in less than three years, our efforts to promote awareness have exceeded our wildest dreams. The Dome of a Home has been on programs and in publications around the world. This thrills us because people are becoming aware of that choices do exist. We do not build domes, we are merely homeowners that are thrilled we found an option after experiencing repetitive storm damage. We want to share our experiences with other homeowners. Hurricanes are not the only disasters domes can withstand. Monolithic domes also fare earthquakes, tornadoes, fires, and radiation fallout extremely well.

With hurricanes such a hot topic right now, the Dome’s reputation for durability and dependability has catapulted to the top of the media’s awareness.
As hurricane season approaches, I have noticed some repeat programming featuring the Dome of a Home so you might see the Dome on your TV soon. If you do, please email me at domeofahome@aol.com and let me know where you saw it. I am trying to keep track of it, but I know I am missing several. Here is what I have:

TV:
National Geographic, the Travel Channel, the Weather Channel, Discovery
Channel, Discovery Channel Canada, MSNBC news, Countdown with
Keith Olberman, Scarborough Country, Good Morning America, CNN,
several local affiliate ABC programs, Santa Rosa Insider, UK film: A Year Of Storms.

PRINT:
Walls and Ceilings; Civil Engineering; Architecture; Florida Travel; United Airline’s Hemisphere’s; UMRAN (Saudi Arabia); CKM (Polish); several
articles in the Pensacola News Journal; some news articles on the AP
distribution for newspapers from New York City to San Francisco.

Through the past few years, I have had several architectural students and professors contact me when they use the Dome of a Home as an example in their classrooms. We find it very exciting that in such a short time span, our major goal has been met. People are becoming aware of the superior qualities of a dome structure. Maybe the 100th Monkey Phenomenon will occur soon. http://www.newciv.org/pos/monkey.html
Once again, I would like to thank all of the people who continue to support our endeavors with their encouragement. We appreciate it very much.