Now More Than Ever, Be Prepared

As the nation comes to grip with the aftermath of hurricane Katrina there are many unanswered questions. In the midst of rescue efforts there is finger pointing going on. There are many who point out that the Federal Government did not respond quickly enough. The Mayor of New Orleans has, in frustration, pointed out that he is not getting the support he needs and there are those who assert that there is little help because the victims are black and poor. All of this is counter productive and does nothing to help the cause. In addition, it is untrue and, in many cases, politically motivated.

As Surfside pointed out much of the blame goes to the people who refused to leave. There are those who point out that these folks were too poor to leave and they were not taken care of. I find it hard to believe that everyone who stayed behind did so because they could not afford to leave especially when they are on the news saying they wish they had left when they were told to do so. This should be no surprise to the Mayor and others because when surveyed last year 33% of the population said they would ignore a mandatory evacuation order. The interesting thing is that those who decided not to leave now expect to be relocated immediately. If they could not evacuate themselves what makes them think the rescuers, who have to worry about everyone, can do it any more quickly? With lawlessness and criminal activity running rampant, the rescuers have a lot to worry about.

When classes concerning disasters are taught around the country one of the things we teach is that for 72 hours people will be on their own. This is how long it takes to get people and equipment into place. The President declared a state of emergency before the hurricane made landfall so that resources could start assembling but it still takes time. Much can be improved but what is the state of readiness when this city had about 5 days notice of a catastrophic event? What would have happened if there was no warning? Suppose terrorists had detonated bombs at the levees and flooded the city. There would have been no warning and many more would have been dead. The people, who were ill prepared for an event they knew was coming, would certainly be unprepared for one that gave no warning.

There are things that people can do to make sure they are at least partially prepared for a emergency. People need to ensure they have a few days worth of necessities that they can reach on a moment’s notice. These would include medications, toiletries, personal hygiene items, baby formula, canned food (and a can opener) and plenty of water. It is also important to take weather appropriate clothing for protection. It is extremely important that people keep a record of their medical history that can go with them. If they are unable to respond this will provide rescuers with valuable information. Names and dosages of medications should be written down so that rescuers are not told “I take a yellow heart pill.” People need to have some type of identification so if they are not able to talk they can be identified. As morbid as it sounds, this will also help make a tentative identification of people who have died. People should also consider getting DNA test kits and keeping a sample of each family member’s DNA. Once again, in the aftermath of a disaster, especially one that is not expected, this will help with identification. Those with computers should consider keeping their information on a flash drive to take with them, keeping in mind that electricity might not be available for some time. This underscores the need for non-electronic information (books, tablets, etc.).

A disaster can occur at anytime as has been demonstrated on 9/11 and during Katrina. Also demonstrated is that these disasters can strike with little or no warning but that even with warning there will be people who feel the need to “ride it out.” A well placed bomb, radioactive weapon, or chemical munition could disrupt a city, anywhere, on a magnitude that would make New Orleans pale in comparison. This is why it is important for people to understand that they are the first ones responsible for their own well being. People who have the mentality that the government is obligated to jump right in and provide them with everything are sadly fooling themselves and increasing their hardship.

The Terri Schiavo fiasco made Americans aware of the need for written instructions regarding their care should they be unable to make their own decisions. I hope hurricane Katrina has made Americans around this great country as equally aware of the need for a family emergency plan. I hope this underscores the need for everyone to take responsibility for their own lives and safety and to be prepared to care for themselves until more skilled and better equipped agencies can arrive.

I recommend that each family develop a checklist and an emergency plan and then review that information on a regular basis. We teach families to have a home fire plan and this idea is accepted as a vital method to increase survival. In today’s world, the scope of that emergency plan must increase to encompass events that were unimaginable just a few short years ago. We have seen the devastation that occurred with advanced warning. Imagine what it would have been without the notice and then get busy on a family emergency plan.

UPDATE:Here are some valuable tools to assist in the process from the Federalist Patriot.

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