While reading some of the coverage and reports of the recent and massive Typhoon Haiyan I came across a really interesting piece on the Lean Crew site titled Wind Engineering. In the piece, the author breaks down some of the science behind wind speeds and wind pressure experienced in hurricanes, tropical storms, and tornados.
It is a fascinating look at the topic, and kind of shocking too in a way, to think about the tremendous fury these kinds of natural disasters unleash, and their impact to life and property. In the piece, though, there was one really intriguing observation about preparedness and the precautions that can (or really can't) be taken by people and property owners in advance of these kinds of storms. Have a look and I will have a quick comment or two after the excerpt:
If you don’t live in the middle of the country, you may think of tornados as those storms that destroy trailer parks, but that isn’t giving them their proper respect. The winds in a tornado are typically much higher than those in a hurricane. Residential building codes are written to protect against most hurricanes; they don’t even try to handle tornados. A house’s primary protection against tornado damage is the extremely small probability that a tornado will hit it.
I don't live in tornado country, so I don't personally know if that last point is 100% correct, (but it seems pretty plausible, I mean, is it even possible to build normal, residential housing units that could conceivably withstand 200+ MPH winds?), but let's assume for now that it is in fact accurate.
What it reminds us, all too well, is that we simply can't (and probably shouldn't) attempt to prepare for every possible adverse event that potentially may impact ourselves or our businesses. Some risks, like a tornado, are simply too devastating for us to even have an effective plan for handling.
But, as in the case of the storm actually making a direct hit on one individual structure, the odds are low enough that it makes the risk acceptable to the thousands if not millions of folks who live in tornado country.
Sometimes, I suppose, the best preparedness is just an honest assessment of the likelihood of impact.