An iconic photo snapped in the tragedy's aftermath speaks the proverbial thousand words: amid a landscape devastated, and houses crushed like eggshells, one thing remained intact, standing erect and defying nature's wrath: an interior bathroom of a single house, whose walls had not been connected to the rest of the house. The photo demonstrated how a single room can withstand the wrath of a tornado and serve as a safe haven.
Today, a consortium of government officials and academics works to raise awareness about the life-saving capabilities of storm shelters.
The team is a who's who of researchers and atmospheric scientists and includes the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T); the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); the Southeast Region Research Initiative (SERRI); the Walt Disney World Resort; the International Code Council (ICC); the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes; and the Oak Ridge National Lab.
Their focus is a pilot project called the Resilient Home Program, which is funded in part by S&T's Infrastructure and Geophysical Division. The program incorporates newly revised guidance from FEMA on designs for basement, in-ground, and above-ground safe rooms; and an ICC standard, which specifies requirements for the design and construction of such sanctuaries.
The program takes place in the American Southeast, a region that draws tornadoes with a frequency and fury that rival the famous "tornado alley" of the Midwest. Making matters worse, the Southeast is a magnet for nocturnal storms, which strike between sunset and sunrise and often double the fatalities of their daytime counterparts. Furthermore, the Southeast's population is particularly vulnerable to disasters, with large numbers of seniors and mobile homes.
Last year, tornadoes pummeled homes and farms in 18 FEMA-declared disasters, stretching from Florida, through the South, and up into Illinois. So far this year, tornadoes have been a part of six more disasters, most recently in Oklahoma and Mississippi. On May 10, 2010, at least 22 tornadoes tore through the Sooner State on a single day, ripping off metal roofs and killing several. In the Magnolia State, an unusually high number of homes in the storm's path—more than half—were destroyed on April 24. Each flattened wooden frame left behind a reminder about the need for a pocket of space that can turn back a howling twister.
And the tornado season is far from over.
"The Resilient Home Program isn't a 30-page report that winds up in a binder on a bookshelf," says S&T program manager Mike Matthews. "It's a roll-up-your-sleeves collaboration among many different entities — homeowners, builders, and insurers — that will help to fortify people's homes, lives and communities."
As Matthews sees it, the sooner families can return to their homes, the faster a community can recapture its vitality.
The team is undertaking a two-part process. First, the research: Why do some homeowners opt for safe rooms while others go without? Then the outreach: Use these findings to communicate with the public and the construction and insurance industries.
The team surveyed 822 homeowners in seven states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Participants were asked a battery of questions about their knowledge of and interest in safe rooms.
"The more we understand about how people perceive safe rooms, the more success we'll have in increasing their number," says Matthews.
From their answers, certain patterns emerged. For instance, homeowners are well-aware that safe rooms can save their lives. Yet they see little value in investing in something that would be used so little or perhaps not at all. For that kind of cash (about $10,000), they'd rather buy a home theater or remodel their kitchen. So the team decided to brand safe rooms as a home-furnishing project—something fun rather than a necessary evil. After all, from bathrooms to bedrooms to boardrooms, there's a reality show on remodeling it.
The messaging was refined in March in focus groups with remodelers and builders. Further creative honing has continued in recent months via interviews with consumers and meetings with insurers to identify incentives that will defray construction costs.
In the meantime, the team is engaged in good old public relations, promoting Resilient Homes via TV segments, partnerships, speeches, workshops, demos—and outreach articles like this one.
John Verrico | Newswise Science News
Modular storage tank for tight spaces
16.03.2017 | FIZ Karlsruhe – Leibniz-Institut für Informationsinfrastruktur GmbH
Smart homes will “LISTEN” to your voice
17.01.2017 | EML European Media Laboratory GmbH
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Information Technology