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Disaster Preparedness

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Introduction

In September and October 2017 three Hurricanes ripped through Texas (Harvey), Puerto Rico and Florida (Irma), and Puerto Rico AGAIN (Maria).  All were Category 5 storms (150mph+ winds) that cut through like a “buzz saw”.

We knew those storms were coming a week in advance.  We saw them on TV and forecasters told us the date and time of the storm’s arrival.  Residents were warned many times of the impending destruction and told their lives would be in danger if they didn’t evacuate.  Still, many people seemed surprised by the storm’s arrival. They failed to stock up on food, water or fuel.  Those living in known flood plains inexplicably decided to shelter in place.  Most people made no preparations for their own safety or survival.

Two months after the hurricanes there are tens of thousands of people still grappling with daily survival.  In the U.S. Virgin Islands over 1/3 of the population have applied for FEMA assistance and ¾ still have no electrical power.  In Houston, over 80,000 people remain in shelters, their homes destroyed.  In Puerto Rico things are even worse with over half the buildings destroyed, 83% of the island without power, sewers not working, and no public water system.  On 22 October a friend wrote

“terrible conditions including lots of accidents due to lack of street lights, sick people, lack of food and fights over food and supplies. There are hardly any cops around to deal with this. But the soldiers are here preventing riots, dealing with transportation safety, etc… They stand and work under the sun…getting sunburned…but giving it 100%. Thank God that they’re here!”

That’s how she ended her letter…and I cried.

Conditions aren’t going to get better any time soon.  According to Brock Long, the FEMA Administrator, “the recovery might take years” and he warned people to “manage their expectations”.  In other words, the government is overwhelmed, so don’t expect any help.

Our politicians are already spinning the “this was a 500-year event” story.  A quick search of the Internet reveals storms are worse, larger and more frequent.  Wildfires are happening every year now, instead of once or twice per decade. Winters are colder, winds are higher, rainfall is greater, and deserts are drier.  We are no longer waiting for the tipping point, we’ve passed it. Global warming is showing us its teeth.

So, what can we do to prepare ourselves?  It’s impossible to know what the next event will be or when it’ll occur.  In our planning we have to consider every option:  tornado, industrial accidents, hurricanes, nuclear power plant accidents, heat waves, chemical spills, cold snaps, plane crashes, blizzards, technology failures, floods, train wrecks, tsunamis, wild fires, volcanos, fire, high winds, etc.  You have to decide which of these could affect you and prepare for them.

Preparing yourself doesn’t have to be expensive.  I’m not suggesting you store a year’s worth of food or get ready for the “zombie apocalypse”.  Instead, let’s focus on getting through the first 30 days after an “event”.

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