What can we learn from Natural Disasters such as Hurricane Irma & Harvey to be better prepared for Climate Change?
Lesson #4 – Don’t assume the government and emergency services will be there to help you – In a big disaster they are unlikely to have the capacity.
I heard on the news during Harvey (I believe it was on CBC) that there was a backlog of over 2000 calls to emergency services for help. Emergency services were only responding to immediate life or death calls (and even had a back log in those). Climate Change is likely to make these situations more common.
People often assume the government is ready to swoop in with helicopters to save us if anything goes wrong. Unfortunately, during a major disaster, this simply is not true. Most Governments request that all citizen be able to take care of ALL of their basic needs for at least 72hrs. The government and emergency services do not have a crystal ball. They also have a limited budget and capacity to plan and prepare, just like us. And, climate change are making old models of predicting weather, less dependable. I personally do not believe it is the Government’s job to come in and save the day (in every situation). They have to look at the big picture and make decisions that are best for the majority of the population. This may trump your personal needs and situation.Whether you agree with this statement or not, when we study disasters around the world, we commonly see governments being overwhelmed. People having to fend for themselves. What can we do NOW to be better prepared
1) Be proactive and take your safety and well-being into your own hands. The less able-bodied adults need to call on the Government and Emergency Services to save them, the more time the authorities have to work at solving the root of the issue (ex: fixing infrastructure). This allows them to focus on protecting vulnerable places such as hospitals, old age homes, and people who do not have the capacity to provide for themselves.
2) Get your emergency kits together as stated in step 2.
3) Learn skills that make you more resilient and have fun doing it! Instead of going out for a weekend on the town, put one weekend aside to do a more advanced first aid course or a survival course. This can be lots of fun if you approach it with the right attitude.
4) Talk with neighbors and family about how you would come together and work together in the event of a disaster or emergency.Who on your street has a first aid training?Does anyone have a generator?Who in your family is going to check on Grandma?Is anyone going to check on the elderly couple or single mother/father down the street that do not have a support network.
Lesson #5 – Communications often fail during emergencies
Don’t rely on the infrastructure you use every day to be working. Have a Communications Plan!
Prior to Hurricane Harvey, many instructions were going out through the radio, the internet, and news channels. Some areas were being told to evacuate . Others were being told to get emergency supplies, food and water together and to prepare to hunker down.
“We cannot conceive ALL possibilities, but we can be strategic & leverage actions that set us up for better success”
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These instructions are based on the best information available at the time. Weather and disasters are often unpredictable. Once the power goes out, circumstances can change and the original information you were given may no longer be relevant or helpful.On top of that, it is likely you will come up with questions that never occurred to you before the incident. Or under the stress and unpredictability of the situation, governments may not mention what to do if…In the case of Hurricane Harvey, people were climbing into their attics to escape rising water flooding into their homes. But the amount of flooding was un-predicted and many homes flooded right up over the roof. Imagine being in your attic, water flowing in from underneath, and trapped? Once the power goes down it becomes harder to communicate to people that they need to get even higher. That they need to either get on their roof (if safe) or if they head into their attic, they should have an axe or chainsaw to cut themselves out.On top of this, imagine being separated from family and loved ones with no way to communicate with them? The roads are down or unpassable, the phones do not work, what do you do? What can we do NOW to be better prepared1) Make plans with family ahead of timeIn the event of a power outage, if safe to do so, we will meet here.Plan B is to meet here.Who will check on Grandma if we all have to shelter in place?2) Learn ahead of time what channels emergency services and the government will be using to give out important information before, during and after an emergency.Even if phone lines are up, local airways may be jammed by the volume of people trying to communicate locally. Try sending texts instead (which use less bandwidth). Have a pre designated person out of town to be a point of contact for family members in the disaster zone that may not be able to reach each other but may be able to call out of town.3) Have a hand cranked and/or battery powered radio with a minimum of AM/FM for news and the weather band so you can stay up to date even without power.If you want to take it a step further, look into getting a basic HAM Radio so you can tune into and listen to emergency service channels to gather more relevant information.
Below are a few fairly basic emergency radios I have used. They get AM/FM, weather band NOAA & some have built in USB chargers & flashlights. These are NOT HAM radios. These are good starters for people who are not looking to take further radio training at this time.
Canadian Amazon Links
American Amazon Links
Eton NSP101WXGR Scorpion ll Rugged Portable Multi-Purpose Digital Radio with Crank Power Back-Up and Weather AlertsAmerican Red Cross FRX3 Hand Crank NOAA AM/FM Weather Alert Radio with Smartphone Charger
** 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 6 – Practice situational awareness and alertness everyday… be ahead of the storm and the panic.
Regardless of past events and how much information is out there, people commonly choose NOT to be proactive. Do not wait till it is too late to consider emergency preparedness.
In the event of an incoming disaster, with a little bit of notice, the last thing you want to be doing is running to the store to get batteries. Especially when you could be working on the next step of your plan, such as how to fortify your home, or gather family members together. You could end up getting injured or worse on route to the store because of the panic of other unprepared people.I personally know SO MANY people who don’t even think about this kind of stuff. Many of my friends have no idea Harvey even happened and have never looked at historical disasters from their region. I also watch people all the time walking down the street with absolutely no awareness of potential hazards around them. They would likely have no way of knowing a big storm was headed their way. We can not afford this complacency with the realities of climate change. I heard a few people being interviewed on the new in the wake of Harvey that had no clue the storm was even coming . Many did not know that people were being ordered to evacuate or seek cover. Their lifestyles are just not set up to pay attention to possibilities such as this.I hope after this storm, many will reconsider what they pay attention to as they walk through life and take emergency preparedness and climate change seriously.
What can we do NOW to be better preparedTake a couple hours one evening to consider all the emergency possibilities that could happen in your life/region. You may want to use google to research disasters that have happened in your area in the past (just remember lesson
1) Visit your local government or emergency preparedness agencies website to see what they suggest in terms of preparedness measure and how to react during different emergencies.
2) Monitor the weather and get some emergency alert apps for your phone. I use the Red Cross “Be Ready” app. There are lots of other great ones out there.
3) As you travel around town, to and from work, consider what potential hazards may exist. Are chemicals transported down the local rail track or Highway? Where could a road wash out in a flood? How would I get home if my normal route was blocked off?
4) Play the “What if game.” While going about your day, occasionally think of an out of the ordinary hazard situation, and ask yourself, what would I do if?
5) Read some books and articles on improving your situational awareness as well as emergency preparedness and survival, a few good ones are:
Canadian Amazon Links
What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural WorldThe Gift of Fear: And Other Survival Signals That Protect Us from ViolenceLeft of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life
American Amazon Links
What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural WorldThe Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us From ViolenceLeft of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life
Emergency, Disaster & Survival:
When Disaster Strikes: A Comprehensive Guide for Emergency Planning and Crisis SurvivalSAS Survival Handbook: The Definitive Survival GuideTom Brown’s Field Guide to Wilderness SurvivalWhen Disaster Strikes: A Comprehensive Guide for Emergency Planning and Crisis SurvivalSAS Survival Handbook, Third Edition: The Ultimate Guide to Surviving AnywhereTom Brown’s Field Guide to Wilderness Survival
Congratulations on making it to the end. I know that was a long one but I also think it was a great opportunity to learn and grow.
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