Tell Us How to Make It Better

Here's Why You Need to Prepare for a Hurricane

July 26, 2022 George Siegal Season 1 Episode 48
Tell Us How to Make It Better
Here's Why You Need to Prepare for a Hurricane
Show Notes Transcript

Episode 48
July 26, 2022
Here's Why You Need to Prepare for a Hurricane

Resilience expert Aris Papadopoulos was part of putting together a report on what the recovery was like for victims of Hurricane Michael in the Florida panhandle in 2018. The results will make you realize why we all need to do more to prevent this damage.

Here are some important moments with Aris from the podcast: 

At 5:54 What is the primary problem you have identified, and what are you doing to make it better?

At 11:23 Why do you think we aren’t rebuilding to a standard that would survive another
category 5 hurricane in the Florida panhandle?

At 17:43 What are some problems that people in Mexico Beach faced that we might not have heard much about?

Here are some ways to reach Aris or download the Wharton study featured in the podcast:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/aris-papadopoulos-bb3584141/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ResilienceAF

Websites: https://www.buildingresilient.com 

Link to the study: https://www.buildingresilient.com/featured/new-study-reveals-major-post-disaster-impact-to-us-households/

If you enjoyed listening to this podcast, please share it with your friends. Also, make sure to like it and subscribe to become a weekly listener. And if you can leave a review that would be great too.

If you have ideas for podcasts or want to share your thoughts on what you’ve listened to, we’d love to hear from you: https://tellushowtomakeitbetter.com/contact

InstinctReady.com

Sawyer.com

Aris Papadopoulos:

The primary problem I see is that we, the consumers and I'm talking about, you know, everybody who, who owns or, or occupies or rents a house, we don't really know how resilient our property is to, to hazards that are local to our area. And we don't know how to make choices to become resilient, whether we're in the home buying phase or the home improvement phase and, and maintenance phase. And, and to me, that's the missing. And I'm trying to get this awareness and education and communication level where resilience is a high priority in everybody's home related decisions.

George Siegal:

I'm George Siegal. And this is the Tell Us How to Make It Better podcast. Every week we introduce you to people who are working on real world problems and providing actual, so. Tell Us How to Make It Better is partnering with The Readiness Lab, the home for podcasts, webinars, and training in the field of emergency and disaster services. Hi everybody. Thank you for joining me on this. Week's Tell Us How to Make It Better podcast. Every week on this podcast, I try to introduce you to somebody who in their job or in their life is doing something to identify a problem. And then make it better. Well, the subject that we're gonna talk about today is one that I care a lot about. If you've seen my documentary film, The Last House Standing, we showed all the damage in Mexico beach, Florida, and the consequences of that damage. Well, my guest today takes it a step further. First he was in the film and was a big resource for us when we were making the documentary. But he's also involved in putting together a report that went back and revisited the community and looked at all the damage that they experienced and all the problems that continue to linger years after the hurricane hit, the storm may have passed through, but the damage lingers behind for years and people really need to gain an understanding that it's a long road to recovery after a disaster strikes. My guest today is Aris Papadopoulos. He's an international pioneer in consumer driven resilience. The author of the book resilience, the ultimate sustainability, and he founded the nonprofit resilience action fund, which aims to empower consumers with knowledge, to make resilient choices for their homes. Aris, welcome. Thanks for coming on.

Aris Papadopoulos:

Thank you, George, for having me me on again. And I really appreciate what you're doing with the podcast and the, the film you made and everything else you're doing to improve awareness for consumers.

George Siegal:

Well, thank you. You know, and, and you were one of my early guests when I started this and it was back at a time when I was just trying to figure out what to do with the equipment. And I had to have you come back a second time to redo the first time. I promise you that will not happen today.

Aris Papadopoulos:

Well, always happy to help for this cause. So you know, tap on me whenever you feel you need.

George Siegal:

No, I appreciate that. And you were a tremendous help when we were making The Last House Standing at, you know, for people that have seen the film, Aris was one of the people featured in there and was such a great resource for us. And and that's really appreciated on my end. Now, a lot of people see you all the time. We know that you're a, a big resilience guy. But tell us something about you that most people probably don't know about Aris Papadopoulos.

Aris Papadopoulos:

Well, I'll, I'll speak again on resilience. I want people to know that I own and live a single family single story house in Miami. And I'm self-insured for that house. The house is very resilient as the one would expect from a resilience expert. I'm at 15 feet elevation. The house was actually built in the original house in 1940 and has concrete block walls one foot thick that instead back then of reinforcement, they just poured more concrete in the space between the blocks heavy concrete tile roof that has obviously been re redone but will last half a century and, and withstand a category five, a hurricane, and I added a a generator hooked to natural gas, but backing that up is a one week tank of propane. So I don't go anywhere. And when I paid off the mortgage, I said, you know, I, I think I'm paying too much for insurance subsidizing, you know other vulnerable properties I could self-insure, but it's not for everybody. You have to have obviously a very resilient house to do that, pay off your mortgage and also have the financial capacity to fund any, you know, any, any event. And, and I use these savings, which I estimate now to be around, you know, 7,000 or more dollars a year, just to keep the resilience and maintain that house to be as resilient as possible.

George Siegal:

You know? And, and that's important to tell people because one of the things I always preach and I hear a lot of other people talk about. People need to have insurance. And if they don't, they need to have what you have. Most people aren't in that position. So the rest of us need to make sure we understand our insurance policy. And we're gonna talk more about that coming up and why that is. And, and the last question I've been asking my guests lately, you know, if you've listened to some of the podcasts, it can't be a resilience answer though. You had to go out and do something fun today. What would you go out and do? Well, I enjoy gardening. My gardener who was kind of a, a retired older citizen, like myself, kind of had, had narrowed down his clients over the years. And, and I was one of the last three. And, and about a year ago, he told me, look, I'm, I'm retiring now. And, and I, and I liked him so much and I saw some of the other gardening companies. So I said, you know, I really want to continue kind of his personalized attention. So I bought equipment and I just love it. Trimmed the trees and, and things grow fast in Florida as, as you probably know. So, you know, it is quite a, quite a good workout and I, but I enjoy it too. That's good. My idea of gardening is watching you garden cuz it's, it's too hot outside to do that. So let's talk about resilience now and we'll talk about the problem that you've identified. What is it that you see as the primary problem and what are you doing to make it better?

Aris Papadopoulos:

The primary problem I see is that we, the consumers and I'm talking about, you know, everybody who, who owns or, or occupies or rents a house, we don't really know how resilient our property is to hazards that are local to our area. And we don't know how to make choices to become resilient, whether we're in the home buying phase or the home improvement phase and, and maintenance phase. And, and to me, that's the missing link, you know, and I'm trying to get this awareness and education and communication level where resilience is a high priority in everybody's home related decisions.

George Siegal:

Now, unfortunately it seems to take a major disaster for the area that then gets wiped out to have to reevaluate and say, okay, we have to do something. And the, the community that we featured in The Last House Standing was in Mexico beach, which is for people who don't know is up in the, the panhandle of Florida. And you called me a while back and wanted to, to get in touch with some of the folks there about a report that was being put together. The challenge of financial recovery from disasters, the case of Florida homeowners after hurricane Michael, tell us about what was going on with that report and what was behind that?

Aris Papadopoulos:

Yeah, basically, you know, having looked at the, you know, studies that had been done over years, you know, I saw that there were a lot of studies about, you know, from the insurance perspective about how the insurance companies have done in, in response to, to the, the frequency of disasters and the severity of disaster. I saw there were also a lot of studies from the government side about, you know, what the government had done, but nobody had really gone back to a community that had suffered a major disaster. To go back like three, four years later and find out how do those residents, how do those homeowners, those households, how do they do? You know, what, what effect did it have on them economically? And personally, and I said, you know, I need to initiate something in that direction, a survey, you know, going back to a community. So I proposed the, this topic to the Wharton risk center, which is part of the university of Pennsylvania. And they liked the idea and we said, okay, let's do it together. So about a year ago was when we kind of, you know, decided to implement that. We, I, I suggested and we picked Mexico beach which had been hit at that time three years now it's four years by hurricane Michael and totally devastated. Let's go back and find out how those households did, what they did, what it really cost them, how it really affected them personally and economically. And let's try to put together a report that everybody can really see what the impact is. And I appreciated your help and bring us in contact with some people. So, so that's, that, that was kind of the thinking behind that. And we use social media to kind of reach out primarily and word of mouth to the residents there. We offered kind of as, as an incentive, kind of a, for every 10 later 20 respondents to a gift gift certificate, a gift card to kind of encourage participation. And I can talk more about, you know, the, the participation and the results.

George Siegal:

Yeah, there was the, the report was fascinating. I I've read it a couple of times, 25 billion in damage to the area. And, and that was just unbelievable to have seen it in person and see how devastating it was. 1700 buildings were in Mexico, Beach's city limits. 48% of them were completely destroyed. That's a, that's a lot of damage.

Aris Papadopoulos:

That is tremendous damage. And that shows how vulnerable our development has been. You know, unfortunately, you know, I, I live in Florida, which is a pretty a state that, you know, as you, you live in Florida too you know, kind of appreciates the the, the, the potential damage of hurricanes, but even our state has not really implemented the measures we need throughout the state. I mean, Andrew happened you know, 30 years ago or, or is it more 1990? Yeah, it's 30. It'll be 30 years basically this this August, and the, the state upped their standards south Florida went to the category five standard of construction, but the rest of the state kind of, you know, shrugged their shoulders and said This can't happen to us. You know, we're gonna build to a lower level, a category one or two, and guess what you know, a category five hit up in the, in, in the panhandle. So, you know, we're kidding ourselves by thinking that gambling with nature, pretending that it's not gonna happen to us is a, is a plan is a strategy. It's not, and it really costs people a lot. And we'll talk about that, you know, from, from the, the results of this report, there's a tremendous impact on people, even if they're insured.

George Siegal:

Absolutely. And what's interesting is some places in Florida have raised their game and, and built to a higher standard. The, the house we featured that was on the beach in Mexico beach, obviously did the houses around them, did not. There were a lot of older homes and they get exposed pretty quickly in a disaster like that. What is shocking to me is how they still didn't build back to a standard to withstand the next category five. And I hear mixed things from that. And when I talk to different experts, some say, well, you know, if you build to a higher standard, the envelope of the house could survive. I mean, I don't know. Stuff's all over my head. Why do you think we're not rebuilding based on what destroyed us the last time?

Aris Papadopoulos:

Well the, the reason we're not doing it is because the building industry, the home building industry doesn't wanna do it. And the home building industry doesn't wanna do it because they see higher standards as a cost to them and hurting their profits. And the reason they see it as hurting their profits is because we haven't educated the consumers to value the more resilient house in buildings. Like we value organic foods and you know, green products and things like that. And we're willing to, you know, spend a little extra on those and prioritize those. So we we've got ourselves into this chicken and egg situation where, you know, we've created a system that tries to stay to the lowest denominator. And you know, which, which part of our life do we actually run, based on the lowest level, not education, not health, not clothing not even recreation, and yet the most important decision, the most important purchase in our life, we are at the lowest level. Basically a level that's determined by escape, you know, giving us the opportunity to escape, but not to save our investment, not to save our home, not to save our possessions, not to save, you know, the things we, we have accumulated you know, from our life's history that cannot be replaced.

George Siegal:

You just wonder what it's gonna take for that light to go on and for people to realize that, because I think everybody is taking that gamble and assuming that it's not going to happen to them. Some of the statistics that were in there, you know, a lot of the houses that were destroyed, weren't even able to withstand 130 miles an hour. I mean, those were really old really old structures. So, does it take a pioneer to come in and just say like the, like the, the Lacky family that just said, okay, we're gonna build a house that we know can survive, but nobody around them did. And so it's like, okay, now they have no neighbors for several years while everybody's rebuilding. I haven't been up there. I need to get up there soon. To see, I wanna see what the area around them is like, are people building raised houses there? Are they go because the storm surge in the report was nine to 14 feet.

Aris Papadopoulos:

Yeah. And unfortunately the standards were raised by very little after the event the wind standard, for example, at the, the, the most current one. And obviously, you know, his older houses were built to even lower levels than that was at 1 35. You know, this, this was a storm that, that brought let's say 1 65 wins and all they did was raise it from 1 35 to one 40. To me, that's a joke, you know, in terms of a standard, but you know, basically they said let's do something lip service to show that we're doing something better. And, and, and I think they raised maybe the the, the free board kind of the elevation by a foot or a foot and a half. Again, you know, we're leaving it up to each individual then to decide, well, I gotta do better than this minimum level. And, and that's tough. The, the industry doesn't work that way. You know, the, the, the builders especially the spec builders, They don't wanna build the things, you know, to, you know, to accommodate everybody's desire. So they'll price. If you ask for something different, they'll price it very high and discourage you from doing it. And, and we're leaving it up to each individual to kind of, you know make it a priority or not make it a priority. And unfortunately, most people being in a rush say, okay, I'll just do it, you know, to the, to the standard that the county has, or the city has now.

George Siegal:

Henk Ovink who was. Who was featured in our film. The Last House Standing has a lot of experience from the Netherlands with, with how they, you know, made it so they would have less damage when they had major storms over there. And he says, how much can you afford to bunker your community? Do you make standards that say, okay, certain life support and essential services will survive, but we're willing to sacrifice these other things. I don't know that people really understand that they're the ones being sacrificed. Because they're not proactively making a, a decision themselves.

Aris Papadopoulos:

Yeah. And, and I think one of the important eye openers from this study, you know, because we have the impression that, okay, the people who suffer are mostly the people kind of in the lower economic categories or the people who don't have insurance. Well, this study was from, from the demographics that we collected. Also, this study was mostly middle class households that had insurance. So we had essentially, you know, the, the middle class here with insurance, and yet we saw tremendous economic and personal impact that nobody really imagines when they're, you know, thinking of their vulnerability. You know, they think, well, I have insurance, you know, I'm kind of, you know, in the, in the middle income category, I'm not gonna suffer very much. Well, guess what? You are gonna suffer. Quite a bit, you know? And so the results here are, are quite interesting in that the middle class insured is, is suffering, you know, is taking two to three. years or more to recover, is having to deal with tremendous issues around collecting from insurance, has a, a whole list of unexpected costs you know has to deal with fraud because you know, we see a lot of fraud descending in these post-disaster area. I mean, a tremendous impact people essentially have to use up a big part of their savings. You know, you have to use up a big chunk of whatever you're saving for whether that's education or retirement or whatever. So it sets you back many many years, you know, even if you're middle class, even if you're insured. And I think if people can appreciate that, then they'll appreciate that maybe that extra five to 10% that I spent up front to make my house resilient is the best insurance, not just for the house, but for me personally.

George Siegal:

I think people see those Allstate and state farm commercials where something happens. The agent shows up with a check and everything's back to normal really quickly really gives people a false sense of, of security. I always tell people their goal is to find ways not to pay you. And so if you don't have everything done properly where you can show them everything you lost and even then they might still make you wait a long time before you get your money. It's a slow path to recovery to collect money from those guys.

Aris Papadopoulos:

And, and here's another interesting thing that was kind of an eye opener to me. And it's in the data, but unfortunately it didn't make it to the report because Wharton was, was kind of sensitive at, at throwing this out because, you know, they, they work with the government too. We saw from the data that those households that had both homeowners and flood insurance had more difficulties and took a longer time than the households who didn't have flood insurance just had homeowner's insurance. And I started asking why, and kind of doing some, some deeper research there and what I came to realize and, and this is documented in, in even previous events, is that when you have these two separate insurers, because the homeowner's insurer is kind of, of the private insurance company and the flood insurer is, is the government acting through a, you know, intermediary that they have their disputes. They, one is trying to push costs the other. So when a homeowner has both the homeowner's insurance and flood insurance, he's dealing with really two separate entities, the private company ensuring his house against, let's say fire and wind and other casualties, and the flood insurer, which is the government working through an intermediary for flood events. But if you have both events, These two entities has to resolve who's gonna pay what and how much. And sometimes they have disagreements and this, these disagreements can delay you as a homeowner from collecting the money you, you really need to start making the repairs and, and moving forward. So we had a lot of those, the people who were severely impacted, whose whose houses were either totally destroyed or destroyed to the point where they were, let's say total losses had those kind of you know difficulties. And I think I, we even looked at the duration. It took on average one year more or longer for people who had both to recover and Some of the comments we, we got were quite interesting. They had to hire public adjuster to negotiate. It, it, they didn't get enough money. It was slow and frustrating. Some even had to go as far as suing the, the insurers to do that. So, you know, all those headaches and frustrations and costs on top of the losses and the personal impact that they faced.

George Siegal:

Now that wouldn't be an argument though not to have both though, would it, it would just be an understanding that you may have to wait a little longer.

Aris Papadopoulos:

Exactly. Yeah. And it's, it's something that, you know, the government needs to resolve because, you know yes, there can be kind of abuses and losses. But they need to get the money somehow to the homeowner and then work out their disagreements later. If they continue to, to disagree, you know don't don't make the homeowner pay for, for the differences these two insurers have.

George Siegal:

The other area that was so disappointing to see, and we experienced it with the people we talked to in the film that were victims of fraud. I imagine a lot of people didn't even come forward. Some people probably didn't even come forward and, and, and complain about it. But the fraud was unbelievable there of the guys that would come into town to, to rip people off, whether they were taking their insurance money. Tarping their roof for $15,000, whatever they were doing, it was just piling on victims. How do we prevent that?

Aris Papadopoulos:

That's very difficult to, to, to prevent because obviously in need and in desperation, people have a tendency to turning to, to anyone who maybe looks decent, maybe talks decently, but really may not be, you know, the, the, the real the real thing. You know, so, you know, people have said, well, check the li make sure their licenses, check the references, you know, do do your diligence do things like that. But to me, the best thing is make sure you're not vulnerable. You know, that, that I go back to that constantly. You know, if, if you put yourself in a vulnerable position, you're exposing yourself to a lot, you know, a lot of personal risk. A lot of financial risk and no matter how much we try to control this fraud and overpricing and misrepresentations and shotty work, I don't think we're gonna be able to, to, to resolve it. It's one of the costs of disaster. Like we have what I call post disaster inflation, you know, th. Things are at price a, you know, when, when in normal times and before disasters, but once a location is impacted by such an event, everything goes up, you know, materials, labor, you know, things, things become more expensive. That's something we don't calculate in a, in our cost beforehand that you know, if it costs you, you know, a thousand dollars to, to make something right before it may cost you $1,500 afterwards to do that. And you may have to wait in line even with that, you know? So, you know, these are real costs that people have to figure in when they're kind of weighing upfront, you know, should I spend a little bit more money to make my roof stronger or not, you know, or, or my windows or doors or, you know, garage etc.

George Siegal:

Well, if the answer to this next question exists, I'm not aware of it, and it's not marketed very well to the consumer. And that would be the cost of not doing it index. That would be great to assign to properties so people would understand I'm in living in this house. And here's what could happen if things go bad. Then you could weigh the costs like, wow so it could cost me $50,000 if there's a problem, but it'll only cost me $10,000 to prevent the problem. It seems like guys like you and all this people much smarter than me could come up with a way to, to calculate something like that. Is that possible?

Aris Papadopoulos:

Well, I think a rating is possible for houses and I, and I've been working with the, the world bank, their private finance arm called the IFC to develop such a rating. And right now we we've tested it outside the U.S. And I wanna bring it to the U.S. Because they're not interested in developed countries. They're just developing, but I'd like to bring that rating to the, to the US, maybe start training using Florida as a pilot in, in, in 2023 and basically be able to say, okay, that that house is A rated. That house is B that house is C and, and the lows would be an R type rating so that the consumer knows upfront look I'm looking at a C and it's not as good as a B or A, so that house is like a liability. You know, it's, it's a ticking clock that at some point mother nature's gonna strike and it's gonna cost me a lot, you know, more than I think even if I'm insured, you know, it's gonna cost, you know, years of frustration and stress is gonna eat into my savings and retirement. You know, I may have lost income, especially if you're working from home, you know, as many of us do today a lot of consequences. So, you know, maybe if I, if I really wanna buy that house, maybe I should budget for it to be improved. And the rating could tell you what things you should be looking for. IBHS the insurance Institute for business home safety has created for me the most credible US rating for resilient homes called fortified, which, you know, I would turn to, you know if you're not building to a fortified standard to me, you're just exposing yourself, you know? So, you know, there, there are things consumers, if they knew and valued and knew how expensive and costly it is to be vulnerable as this survey shows, they would, it would be a no brainer. They'd say, you know, I don't care about the countertop and the, and the closets and the cabinets. I wanna make sure that my house is resilient before anything else.

George Siegal:

Yeah. They don't even calculate what happens when the, the business that you're working at is destroyed. Now you no longer have a job or you're the business owner or the school has to close because it was wiped out. I mean, there's so many things that, that aren't calculated, but unless we give people a reason to care, I don't know that they're just gonna decide to do it on their own.

Aris Papadopoulos:

Well, I think this, this survey shows all the reasons you should care. You know, when you look through the, the lines here and you, you see, you know, how much, you know, how many people had to eat into their savings to take to, to make things happen. I mean, how many people experience acute shortages of money in the month following that basically two thirds of people had to dig into their personal savings. Okay. 40% lost income. And a lot of them were working from home. You know, they didn't have a home to work from anymore, or even if part of the home was left, you know, was, was didn't have power, didn't have communications or anything like that. 20% had to dig deeper into their credit to do that. So and, and very few actually got money from the federal government, either in a loan or a grant. So if, if you are thinking that the government's gonna step in and kind of shower you with with money, I mean, you're kidding yourself, you know? You know, very few actually got any money from the government, you know? So you're relying on your own resources. So you're, you're exposing yourself.

George Siegal:

Yeah. Brock long, the FEMA director at the time told us that the federal government was not gonna be anybody's answer to, to saving them. And, and he was absolutely a hundred percent right. The other thing that seems to get a lot of people, and I hear stories about this quite often, the hurricane deductible, most people don't realize there's probably a deductible on their roof. You're not getting a new roof if you have that 2% of your value of your house deductible or whatever that can wipe people out just with that on its own.

Aris Papadopoulos:

Exactly. Yeah. There's deductibles and that deductible, you know, For, for people to, to reduce the cost of insurance, those deductibles have been going up over time. So, you know, today you're looking, you know, if you, if you want to you know, ensure a 200 or 300, hundred thousand dollars, you know, value, which may not be the replacement value lower than that still at, you know, you're talking about, I remember I had put a 5% deductible and go to 10% deductible just to get a reasonable rate, you know, before I dropped, you know, became self-insured. So I said, if I'm gonna be spending that kind of money, you know, with insurance, you know, why should I not be self-insured, you know, that was another kind of, and then you have caps, you know, all these policies have caps and they don't consider the increased inflation that we've seen in the last year with all materials and, and labor and so forth. And, and they don't don't consider that, you know, your, the standard that your house was built to 20 years ago, let's say is gonna be more expensive to meet the current standards that, that exist. So you're exposed on both ends, you know, the deductible and the cap. So, yeah, insurance is something you should have, but the best insurance is resilience. The best insurance you can invest in is to be in a resilient house. And I think everybody, every whole household needs to recognize that and make sure that they do everything possible to prioritize that as number one, you know, it's not the countertops, it's not the appearance. It's not the closets. It's will this home survive a severe hazard that is possible in your area.

George Siegal:

Yeah. You know, getting back to that insurance thing, I, I would hope that everybody would call their insurance agent and just say, please explain my policy to me. If you're not gonna read it yourself and completely understand what you have. So you're not living under a false assumption, but obviously if building right and avoiding having that happen would be huge. What I thought was interesting also in the report, 73% of respondents undertook some risk reduction in their rebuilding 73%. So that means 27% did not. They're just rebuilding, which is crazy. Most common was upgrading the roof. Which 53% did the next was windows at 43%. I didn't see much in there about elevating their house or, you know, building something that could actually with, to proactively think, wow, I just got hit by this. Maybe it could happen again. Mm-hmm . Aris Papadopoulos: Yeah. And, and some of those improvements were because obviously the house was built 50 years ago and you know, was a cottage, a bungalow, you know, as, as many of those houses were there and, you know, the, the standard has changed and some were a, a few were above the code, but there was another piece of information there that for those who totally lost their houses or had severe damage, 80% did claim that they got no information, neither from the government, nor from insurers on how to build above the regulations to do even better than code. 80% said they got nothing, you know, no information. From from, from, you know, the government and their insurer. So yeah, they built a code but maybe they could have done even better because as I said, the code was not raised very much, you know, maybe it's better than what, what their house was before, but it's not gonna, you know, help them in the next Michael. Well, you know, both you and I, nobody's gonna put either one of us on the cheerleading squad for builders. But I'm just wondering why more of them aren't stepping up and saying hey, we can fix this problem from our end and, and look at all the business we'll get if we educate the consumer. It just seems like a huge opportunity to take something that's really bad. Even if you're selfish about it and say, I'm just gonna be self-motivated for my business. It would be a great business angle to be building safe houses, a marketing angle.

Aris Papadopoulos:

It, it would be. And you know, we, we haven't seen that happen. I mean, fortunately groups like habitat for humanity, which is a nonprofit that, that helps, you know, the lower income people. I mean, they recognize this and they've upped their standards above code. They're using some of the fortified kind of, you know, measures because they're saying, look, we're trying to help people. And we don't want, you know, to put people in a situation where a few years from now, they come back and said, you know, habitat, you helped us, but we're homeless again. You know? So we're back to zero again. They've recognized this unfortunately the typical home builder is a speculative builder who is looking to keep his investment low, keep his costs low. And make something that looks pretty and, and sells quickly, you know, and he's feeding off the majority of consumers who are, have been brainwashed I say for, you know, several generations by I put quote unquote, I use them kind of as the, you know scapegoat here, the better home and garden culture. Because when you read better home and garden, or look at their lovely TV show, you know, 99% of what they talk about is appearance and cosmetics. So, you know, that's the kind of brain, you know, education, or I call it brainwashing that consumers have been put through for several generations. You know, we don't see much talk about resilience. And until we get messages, like what you're trying to communicate out there and, you know, talking about this, this survey and, and people realizing that it's, it it's an upward curve. The go the government doesn't, I mean, they did a, a wonderful campaign between the auto industry, the insurance industry, and the government decades ago on auto safety. I mean, we all remember the dummies crashing into walls and you know, that, that left an image in, in everybody's mind, including, you know, youngsters that auto safety is something very important. And we spend the money today, you know, in, in all these you know, auto safety provisions. And even if the manufacturers gave us an optout said, Hey, you'll save 10% if we take out the, you know, extra bumpers and the collapsible steering wheel and the, the airbag, you know, we would say, no, we don't wanna save that 10%, you know, We want those things in there. And if somebody actually did it, you know, his family would be, you know, would be up in arms and, and you know so we need to get to that level of awareness, you know, with consumers on, on homes. And we're not there. We're just at the very beginning.

George Siegal:

You know, the auto industry is kind of getting tested, I guess, a little bit on that. I went into a car dealership last month because I love Audis. And they were saying there's no backup cameras or blind spot mirrors right now because they can't get the chips. So for the next couple of months, people who are buying that car won't have those features and they can't have those features. And I said to the guy, what would you do? He goes, I'd wait. I mean, I wouldn't even think of buying a car without those things. Yet now transition that to your house. People aren't thinking about it. They don't care.

Aris Papadopoulos:

Yeah, so the sensitivity is not there. Why? Because we've been kind of fed spoon fed couple of myths. The first myth is that a house that's built to code and has an occupancy permit is a good, safe house. Well, the, the truth is it's only safe enough to get you out of the house. Not safe enough to, to stand to survive. The second myth is that insurance will take care of everything. You know, insurance is a, is a great, you know, protection and the, the truth is yes, up to a certain extent, but it's not gonna cover everything and, and a disaster will, will stress you considerably and eat into your credit and personal savings. And the third myth is that the government will eventually help you. So, you know that that's the, the safety net and the truth is no, the government is not gonna help you. And, and they're probably gonna, you know, put you through a lot of additional stress as you're trying to get some help from them. And it it'll just be a few droplets for, for people. So we've got to dispel those three myths and, and open people's eyes to, to the reality.

George Siegal:

If I have an older house, is it possible to turn it into a resilient house? Can people do that and still not break the bank being proactive?

Aris Papadopoulos:

Well, as I, as I said in the beginning, my house was built in, in 1940.

George Siegal:

But you had an exceptional house you had, I'm talking about, let's say if somebody got in, rode into Mexico beach before hurricane Michael a year before yeah. And said, look, these houses are vulnerable. Could they have done anything?

Aris Papadopoulos:

It depends on the specific house. You know, for example, you know, If, if the house, if the house is, is built, let's say less than 15 feet above whatever water level is there, whether that's the sea or a river, or even the bottom of a valley, you know, the flash flooding, if you're, if you're inland you know, it's very expensive to, to fix that, that that's one of the most difficult and expensive things to do. So I would say thumbs down there, you know, look for something higher ground, you know, because you're, you're looking at a high cost and, and a high risk at the same time. But let's say a, a house is on higher ground. But you know, the house is built you know, built of wood, let's say. And you know, the, the, the house was built at a time when, when we didn't have the, the higher above standard codes for tying down with with straps and with metal attachments, the roof to the walls, the walls to the floor. It's possible, but you'd have to get an expert to retrofit that and add those features in you'd have to tear into, you know, walls and, and do that. But yeah, you could add straps, you could add fasteners, you could add all those metal attachments and strengthen that. You know, you'd have to get somebody professional to kind of, you know, tell you, you know, if it's possible and how much that would cost, but it's, it is possible. Let's say you're you, you have a concrete house. But it was built to a lower standard and the roof probably couldn't do better than the category two wind. If the walls are strong enough, you could upgrade that roof to let's say to a, you know, higher standard roof to withstand a category three or four, or maybe even even five roof, depending on the, on the strength of the walls. So you could do that, that retrofit and probably make sense to do that, even if you could couldn't put, you know, that kind of a heavy roof, a fortified has a standard for roofs that at least you could get to 135 miles an hour wind, which is, is better protection than probably the original roof was only 90. Maybe even 80, probably not more than a hundred. So you could do that. You could change out the windows and the doors and the garage door you know, at low cost. And let's say even if you're subject to some kind of flooding you know maybe you're not at you know, 15 feet, let's say you're at 10 feet elevation. You could dry proof or wet proof your ground floor. So either to keep the water out or if the water does get in to minimize the cost and damage. So there are things that you could do, let's say to, to kind of, you know, protect yourself there. So yes, there's a whole list of things of, of that, that, you know, property owners could. But you know, the, the, the best thing is to, you know, sometimes just knock the whole thing down and, and rebuild from, from scratch. But that that's a choice, you know, it's a case by case kind of process. But unfortunately I'd say that the vast majority of US homes and we're talking about 160 million homes in the US. The vast majority have one or more vulnerabilities, you know, because our standards have been set so low for so many decades. And we've been building about a million homes a year. During this kind of, you know home surge. And unfortunately, even most of those homes are vulnerable to one or one or more hazards. So we're digging ourselves deeper into the whole, not digging ourselves out of the hole.

George Siegal:

Well, if you could have your perfect world wishlist, what would everybody do after listening to this podcast? What's the one thing everybody should go do.?

Aris Papadopoulos:

I would prioritize above anything else. Whether you're looking to move to a, a new home or just looking at future renovations, I would prioritize things that will make your home stronger and able to survive whatever hazards you have, before I do anything else. Before I remodel the bathroom, the, the kitchen, the closets, you know, those other things. I would prioritize those things first and yes, they could give you some insurance savings, but more importantly, they'll protect your egg nest. They'll protect your family. They'll protect your possessions. And I personally believe that as we get more and more kind of transparency and recognition, they'll increase the future value of their, your house more than what you put into it. Because I think as we have more of these things happening and people like you and me talking about it and coming up with tools, you know, people will start smartening up, you know, slowly. And at some point they'll say, you know, I'm looking at this house, it's a beautiful kitchen. Yeah. You got great closets, but. I'm gonna have to spend an extra 50, a hundred thousand to make it more resilient. And therefore I'm discounting the value of this house by that much, you know? And so if you have already done that, I think at some point, and I think it's within 10 years, the market will recognize that and your house is gonna be worth more. And if you're vulnerable, your house's gonna be worth a lot less, you know? So think of the value and the equity you have in your house as, as another good reason to prioritize resilience.

George Siegal:

Yeah. If your house is still around and stop rewarding mediocrity of somebody else's work by jacking up the value and, and buying it and letting them pass their problem onto you. How can people see the report? If they're interested in checking this out, is there a way the public can see it?

Aris Papadopoulos:

Yeah, you should post the, the link to the website. I will both the Wharton website and, and, and I think I have it on my website too. I'll I can send you that also. So that people can, can go through that and, and, you know, see for themselves. And I'm hoping to do more surveys like that. I, I kind of asked Wharton, they haven't, you know, kind of come back to me, but I'm looking, you know, to, to team up with others who would like to go to other locations, you know, three, four years down the road and say, okay, let let's check and see, you know, how they fared, because I think there's a big pattern here. And I think we need to bring the awareness and the spotlight more in the public eye.

George Siegal:

Absolutely. I would hope anybody that lives in a vulnerable area would would check that out. We'll put a link in the show notes too. And also the shameless plug of your book. How do people get this book?

Aris Papadopoulos:

Well, it is now available on, on Amazon. I also made it into a audio book audible, cause I've kind of become an audio book fan myself. So you can, you can listen to it on audible. It's also available in Spanish. So, you know you know, there's a Spanish version of the, of the uh, paperback too. And I'm in the process of writing my second book, which will be kind of focused on the economics of resilience and, and kind of, you know, the, the, the financial side. And I hope to have that complete, let's say beginning of, of next year and out.

George Siegal:

Excellent. Well, listen, Aris. Thank you for being my first repeat guest. I, I appreciate you coming on. I, I, I love the work you're doing that report is fantastic and I, I wish people would take this as seriously as we appear to be taking it and do more.

Aris Papadopoulos:

Well, I'm honored to, to be part of your effort and, and thank you ever for for everything you're doing and let, let let's try to make another documentary happen. This is so Val valuable for, for pub the public.

George Siegal:

Absolutely. Thanks Aris. Thank you for listening to this week's Tell Us How to Make It Better podcast links to get Ari's book and to get the report will be in the show notes for this episode. And there's also a contact form. If you have any thoughts about what you've listened to or what you'd like to hear on future episodes, please reach out to me. I would love to hear from you. Thanks again for listening. See you next time.