With the recent storms in Florida and the south, I was reminded about another large storm and it’s impacts. We are praying for the folks in the South today and hope that everyone remains safe. God Bless and Protect you all.
One of my post retirement hobbies has been public speaking. My subject matter is pretty expected; Navy stuff, World War 2 history and of course Submarines in the Cold War. I’ve probably given hundreds of talks over the past sixteen years to all sizes of social and civic groups. But one of my favorite topics has been developed over the past ten years. Readiness. As a good submarine sailor, I pride myself for thinking about all of the situations I might find myself in during our routines and travels. Living in Western Michigan was a joy in some ways but also a challenge since we were right in the path of some of the meanest lake effect snow showers I had ever encountered.
One of my least favorite memories was Thanksgiving in Grand Haven when the snows came down so fast and so hard it knocked out power to the house. The plows were slow coming up Lakeshore Drive and we weren’t going anyplace anytime soon. But without electricity (in a house that is heated by electricity) you suddenly discover the reality of how well prepared you are.
Another of my least favorite memories is the trip to south Florida after Hurricane Andrew paid a visit. We were up in Nova Scotia on a liberty run when the news broadcasts started showing some of the devastation that was occurring. A quick run on the Hunley to pick up supplies led to a three-month on site recovery operation. Being out in the field for even just a few days, you could see the level of destruction that nature is capable of producing.
I have lived in many different parts of the country (north south east west) and frankly every area has its own environmental issues that could create a situation where you would have to self sustain. Hurricanes, flooding, fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, sever winters and on and on. Not only do you have environmental issues, you also have the emerging threats from potential catastrophes like power grid failures, terrorist threats, and disruptions to services that could occur because of those events.
The real question is this: Are you ready? Are you sure?
Here’s a little test:
1. How many days does FEMA, the Red Cross and Department of Homeland Security tell you to be able to self sustain for?
2. How much water per person should you have stored for cooking, cleaning and other uses?
3. Do you know how to shut the utilities off in your house in the event of an explosion, fire or earthquake?
4. If you had to evacuate in a hurry, what would you take with you? What if you couldn’t come back for weeks?
5. How would you communicate with loved ones in the event you are in different areas when the “event” occurred?
6. If you have to evacuate, where would you go? Do you have a plan or are you just hoping to be told what to do?
7. How well do ATM machines operate without power?
What struck me most about the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew was that it was an equal opportunity event. Everyone who was living there at the time faced the same challenges of a food and water supply problem. Shelter was also challenging because regardless of the type of housing you had, Andrew pretty much smacked them all down. I never thought I would see refugees living in America but frankly that is what a lot of people looked like as they lined up for their meals and water supplies.
Truthfully, no amount of preparation would completely eliminate the recovery you will have to go through in the event of a catastrophic incident like Andrew. But remember that the same people who are coming to help will have their own time to prepare their vehicles and equipment. The Red Cross and the government agencies all need a short amount of time to become activated and that means self-sustaining for a short period of time.
http://www.ready.gov/ is your first stop if you didn’t feel comfortable with your own answers above. Even if you did, it won’t take very long to go to the website and check it out. It also has links to FEMA, Disaster assistance and other resources. You can also visit the Red Cross at http://www.redcross.org/ You will find many additional resources there plus ways you can help your neighbors.
Hurricane Andrew landed in Florida 19 years ago this week. After he left, there were many communities devastated. I know two things about disaster preparedness:
1. It is too late to plan after the disaster has already started
2. If you don’t have at least a plan, you become a part of the disaster (which means that someone else will have to have planned for your recover)
The last thing to remember is that in the event of a major disaster, one of the first things that normally goes away is electricity. It will be really tough to turn on your computer and go on the internet to see what to do next if that is the case.