Letter: Disasters can be handled differently

To the editor:

It is curious that when natural disasters occur, figures of speech are used to present a comfortable narrative at odds with reality. Qualities and attributes are given to people and events, which reflect emotional needs and not accurate descriptions.

Thus, all first responders are “brave” and “heroic.” Storms are “angry,” “cruel” and “vicious,” as if they possess human emotions. People affected by weather are “victims,” “refugees,” “displaced persons,” who “lose everything” and are “wiped out,” but they always will “rebuild”.

Neighbors are always “helpful,” “caring,” “doing for others” and “selfless.” Firefighters are on the “frontlines” as if this were Argonne in 1918. They are “fighting” 24 hours per day seven days a week but are “untiring.” When fire trucks arrive, crowds cheer: think Americans liberating Paris in 1944.

The problem with television’s misuse of language is that it distorts reality, diverts attention from the causes of natural disasters that might have been dealt with beforehand, and reduces understanding of better ways to handle effects of weather on people and property. It also insulates government from criticism as in the response, “there was nothing we could have done about it.”

The action of the federal government in providing financial relief for people who have decided not to insure their homes is wrong. Building homes and businesses next to oceans is also encouraged by federally subsidized flood insurance. This creates moral hazard. Insurance costs should be based on true probability of loss, e.g. areas subjected to hurricanes. Let’s not build to the water’s edge or extensively build homes in western forest areas subject to forest fires, and as in California, rebuild homes beneath hills that experience mudslides.

Lastly, what exactly do electric linemen and forest firefighters earn, with overtime, for their 18- to 24-hour days? It’s easy work if you can do it all day.

Rick Sirvint


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