Why wasn’t this:
happening last weekend when authorities knew Katrina was a category 5 hurricane, when authorities knew it was headed straight for New Orleans, when authorities knew New Orleans’ levees were only designed to withstand a category 3 hurricane, when authorities knew the city was surrounded by high water on all sides, andauthorities knew there were hundreds of thousands of people unable or unwilling to leave on their own?
As an ecologist I would also add that authorities knew that decades of dyking and channeling the Mississippi had stopped the flow of sediments to the floodplain causing the land to sink and erode, making New Orleans increasingly vulnerable to flooding by storm surges. And as a closet Coast to Coast listener, I can tell you that last weekend lots of ordinary people were fully expecting New Orleans to be wiped off the face of the earth. Why was this disaster such a surprise for the authorities?
Finger-pointing aside, the bottom line is that every person needs to take civil defense seriously because we can’t count on the authorities, even in the most wealthy and powerful nation in the world, to take care of us. We need to be able to take care of ourselves and each other, and we need to be prepared for the worst case scenario.
I encourage everyone to get over the “it won’t happen here” syndrome and find the website of your local emergency preparedness agency (Canadians start here). Find out what the hazards are in your area (where I live it’s earthquakes, tsunamis, and forest fires) and how to prepare for them. It’s really not that difficult. The most important things are to take a one-day emergency first aid course and put together a “grab-and-go” emergency kit that can keep you and your family alive for at least three days (and judging by New Orleans, a week would be better). Make sure your place of employment and/or car are also stocked with survival supplies and equipment.
One of the big problems in New Orleans is that the people don’t know what is going on and what they are supposed to do. Their radios are either under water or the batteries were dead (and local AM/FM repeater towers may have been destroyed). The solution: get a short wave wind-up/solar radio. There is one for (almost) every budget so there’s little excuse not to have one. While you’re at it, get a wind-up or shake-up LED flashlight too—no batteries, and you never need to replace the bulb. You can also get a <a href="http://www.canadiantire.ca/assortments/browse_product.jsp?FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=1408474396670123&PRODUCT%3C%3Eprd_id=845524443250627&ASSORTMENT%3C%3East_id=1408474396670271&bmUID=1125608771589&FOLDERbrowsePath=2534374303517494&FOLDERbrowsePath=2534374303517530&FOLDERbrowsePath=1408474396670123″ target=”_blank”>solar panel to charge up your cell phone.
I would also recommend a good book: Tom Brown’s Field Guide to City and Suburban Survival. He is very good at getting you into a creative self-rescue mindset rather than the usual “how to hang on until the cavalry comes and saves you” mentality.
Maybe we can’t predict or prepare for every eventuality but if we can take some simple steps to improve our chances of surviving and helping out in the predictable emergencies, why not do it?