In the United States, an emphasis is placed on flood recovery rather than avoidance. At some point, recovery needs to move onto the next phase of rebuilding a more resilient city. The inclusion of green infrastructure, with the ability to soak up water and slow down flooding, is one often politically overlooked part of resilient rebuilding.
The flooding in Houston causes concern for public health. Overflowing water reservoirs and possible problems at treatment plants might result in water shortages, while raw sewage and the release of dangerous chemicals can result in water contamination. This can be mitigated through adequate infrastructure and nonstructural tools such as zoning and flood warnings.
A series of explosions at a chemical plant in Texas following flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey highlights the risk of extreme weather-related industrial accidents. Prevention and preparedness efforts against such natural-hazard triggered technological accidents (NATECH) need to be strengthened.
More than half of the inundation caused by Hurricane Harvey happened outside mapped flood zones. Except for showing the severity of the storm, it also highlights inadequacies in U.S. federal flood risk assessments. Flood maps are based on historical patterns and do not consider shifting climate change conditions and the expected increasing severity of storms.
Technological advancements, such as open data, drones, and early warning systems, can play a critical role during and after disasters like Hurricane Harvey. These technologies can significantly counteract the impact of natural disasters by providing up-to-date information about flood levels and shelter locations.
The disaster following Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston has left emergency disaster officials aware of their own emergency plans, with their own flaws. The main lesson from Houston is that even the best emergency plans might not be sufficient, and at a national level, people ask themselves if they are ready for when a disaster strikes.