What Irma & Harvey CanTeach us to Prepare for Hurricane Florence & the Future.
Want the key points? - Scroll to "What We Can Do Now.." near the bottom of the post.
As I update this post, Hurricane Florence is heading towards the Carolina coast where over 1 million people have been ordered to evacuate. One year ago I wrote the original post just after Hurricane Harvey battered Texas and Hurricane Irma the Caribbean and East Coast of the United States.
I took a course with a tracker and survival expert once, Tom Brown Jr. He used to commonly say something to the nature of, “Make everyone (and everything) you meet your teacher.”
So, in a changing world and climate, how do we make the most of some of the tragic extreme weather events we are witnessing from afar (or up close and personal)?
We can learn from these experiences to be more adaptable and resilient people. And we can be better prepared for the realities of climate change and extreme weather in order to keep our families and communities safe.
Hurricane Harvey took Houston Texas by surprise and captured attention around the world. A Category 4 hurricane that grew from a category 1 to 4 overnight.
If you would like to comment and share your own ideas, please share below and come and join the continued conversation over at our Facebook Group - Changing World Conversations
What can we learn from #HurricaneHarvey #Irma 2 be more adaptable & resilient ppl in the face of #ClimateChange ?
6 Lessons from Hurricane Irma & Harvey
Lesson 1 - Don’t be blinded by your own experience and imagination - Complacency Kills!
A friend of mine lives on a hill, high and dry. Her family has lived on this property for over 50 years. Last year their basement flooded for the first time ever. This is not something they (or I) would have ever imagined or expected, houses on hills are not supposed to flood.
Hurricanes are also not supposed to move so slow and continue to drop massive amounts of rain even after they have made landfall. Earthquakes and tsunamis are not supposed to knock out the backup power supplies to nuclear reactors in the case of the Fukushima Nuclear Reactor melt down.
My point here is that it is hard for us to imagine a situation that has never happened before. I often hear people say, “That could never happen here,”.
The reality of climate change is that we are going to experience new weather patterns that our current predictions models do not account for. A “typical” weather event could have “untypical” behaviour as a result.
What YOU Can Do Now To Prepare
1) Don’t tell yourself “it could never happen here, or to me.”
Even if it is unlikely to happen in your region in the same way, it is possible another chain of events that you have never conceived of. It could create similar circumstances and consequences.
2) Spend an evening researching historical weather events in your area. Maybe you don't consider earthquakes or tornados to be a real threat in your area because you have never witnessed one or heard of one mentioned.
You may find that the reason is because there has not been an one in hundreds (or even thousands of years) BUT....... They have happened before, which means they could happen again!
3) Based on your research and some logical thought, spend another evening and make a list of some of the most likely disasters and emergencies that could hit your area as well as some possible ones.
Then learn the basics of what to do in each. There is plenty of information online and on government and NGO sites like the Red Cross about, "What to do if..."
4) Take an “All Hazards Approach”
So, we can’t see into the future, we cannot conceive ALL the possibilities. We can be strategic and leverage actions that set us up for better success in a multitude of different scenarios.
An “All Hazards Approach” in the field of Emergency and Disaster Management is when we look at all the possibilities (that we can conceive) and what plans and actions could be useful in as many different scenarios as possible.
The way I like to approach this from a personal preparedness perspective is by asking what are the necessities of life, for my family’s survival & well-being? And, what elements can significantly influence these?
So, my necessities are - Shelter (in its simplest form is to protect me from the elements and other harm), Clean Water (for hygiene and drinking), Fire (this includes heat, light in the dark, the ability to cook, etc.), Food, Health and whatever else is needed for my body and brain to continue to perform.
What elements can influence this:
- Water (excessive amounts such as a flood, not enough as in a drought, contaminated water or water making me cold)
- Air (excessive amounts of wind creating damage, contaminated air by say a chemical fire, etc.)
- Fire (house fire, forest fire, lack of heat for warmth, etc.)
- Earth (earthquakes, contaminated soil affecting agriculture, etc.)
- Other People (crime, people wanting to do harm and people who can help)
- Technology (anything that impacts the infrastructure that provides me with shelter, water, fire, food and health)
I could expand on this in length but will give one quick example of an All Hazards Approach to preparedness. Creating a basic emergency “grab and go bag” that takes into account Shelter, Water, Fire, Food and Health instantly gives me options to cover my basic needs when water, fire, earth, other people or technology become a problem. Thus, this is one example of an All Hazards Approach.
Lesson #2 - Is the 72hr kit really adequate? And, is your emergency gear ACTUALLY ready to go?
In a survey I conducted of over 200 people, 58% said they were somewhat prepared (with gear and knowledge for what to do during a disaster), 17% said they were and 23% said they were not.
But was does that even mean? In the days before Hurricane Harvey, many grocery stores ran out of food, water and batteries. Home supply stores ran out of generators and gas stations ran out of gas. There were tens of thousands of people that did not get what they needed before the storm hit.
Of the folks who feel they have basic gear at home, what if you did not see the disaster coming? What if you woke up in the middle of the night and had to go RIGHT NOW?
Now, add in a possible lack of light, worrying about family members and other unforeseen circumstances.
Are you REALLY ready to go? How old are the batteries in the flashlight? Do you have everyone’s phone number, if your phone dies and there is no way to charge it?
Now, let’s look at the scope of the disaster. In a typical blackout, a 72hour kit is usually more than enough. In Hurricane Harvey, they predicted it was over 3 weeks for the water to drop in some areas keeping residents from returning to their severely damaged homes.
What if you are trapped at home and the power will not be back up for weeks? No groceries, no flowing toilets, no running water. Could you last 2 - 3 weeks in your house with what you have at home right now?
What YOU Can Do Now To Prepare
1) Have a backpack with basic gear (think shelter, water, fire, food, health & hygiene, tools, communication, entertainment, back-up finances and security) ready to go. I keep mine in the car.
Have a waterproof Rubbermaid of basic supplies in your home for a longer in-home situation (consider the same needs).
2) Think beyond 72hrs when making these kits. If you don’t have anything in place right now and have limited time and budget, start with the most important gear based on your necessities. A few basic items or a 72hr kit are better than no kit at all!
3) In the case of having to drive during a flood, consider how you would get out of your car if you became trapped and the automatic windows would not roll down?
Grab yourself a car escape tool, put it within reach of the driver's seat and forget about it. You are now more prepared than you were yesterday. It’s that simple.
Although I have not personally tested either of them to break a window yet, the portable "Resqme" get's great reviews as well as the "Lifehammer"
** Any tools or books purchased through the links on this site provide a very small amount of income towards supporting this blog. So if your going to buy any of these resources, please consider using these links and consider it a tip for my work. Thank You!
Lesson 3 - Perspective & Attitude is Everything, Choose Courage & Good Will, Over Panic & Fear
In the days before Hurricane Irma struck Florida, the best and worst of humanity was revealed. I had the fortune to to communicate several times with a friend, Emily Ruff from the "Florida School of Holistic Living", who was in Orlando before the storm hit.
We live streamed one of our conversations. Her perspective on the events unfolding were both thought provoking and inspiring. You can watch the video below (it is over 30min, so I suggest finishing reading this blog first and possibly making some popcorn!)
What YOU Can Do Now To Prepare
1) Get together with your community and immediate neighbors to talk about how you would support each other in the event of a disaster or emergency.
Who is checking on the elderly folks down the street?
Who has advanced first aid training?
Can anyone operate a HAM Radio or have walkie talkies?
Does anyone have a generator?
What else would be valuable to discuss ahead of time?
Having these conversations before the storm can go along ways and be very reassuring during the event itself.
2) Train your mind to react to stress by taking a deep breath and trying to look at things objectively. You can practice this through visualizing a disaster in your mind, make it feel real to the point that you start to get tense. Then take a DEEP BREATH, feel yourself relax a bit, do it again, then focus on your next step baby step, what resources and options are available to you. Take that step then repeat.
The more you visualize this now, the better chance of taking a breath under stress becoming second nature reflex response!
3) Take some time to watch the video interview with Emily Ruff and/or read a summary I wrote after our interview on 10 Lessons we Can Learn From the Recent String of Disasters
Be proactive, take your #safety & well-being into your own hands. Get your #emergency kit & plan together today!