I Just Have To Say

Why wasn’t this: Superdome Evacuation
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&#8243; 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?

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19 comments on “I Just Have To Say

  1. Stefanie says:

    Not to mention the FEMA report from 2001 that pretty much said one of the three worst case disaster scenarios is a large hurricane hitting New Orleans. If the government had listened and done something four years ago things would be very different right now.
    I feel like crying every time I turn on the radio.
    Good advice about the disaster kits. And if you have pets, don't forget to include enough food and water for them too as well as a spare leash for a dog and a harness/leash for a cat. And shoes, don't forget shoes with thick rubber soles and a blanket or two. Can you tell I've done this before?

  2. Sylvia says:

    I am guessing that one of the other worst case scenarios in that report was a major earthquake in California. People there should probably be wondering if they will get similar (non)assistance when their time comes.
    I just saw a guy on CNN who swam and waded for 8 hours carrying his two mid-sized dogs. He was in tears, berating himself for not evacuating and having endangered his dogs.

  3. Stefanie says:

    Yes, the other two worst case disaster scenarios from FEMA was a major earthquake in CA, particularly San Francisco and, if you can believe it, an attack on the World Trade Center. The FEMA meeting where all this was discussed was held on September 10, 2001.
    The irony of it takes my breath away. And Bush saying no one predicted the levees in New Orleans would go is BS. It's been talked about for years.
    I have to go lie down, I feel my blood pressure shooting up again.

  4. deb says:

    I have picked up, half a dozen times, the wind-up radios at the store knowing it's a good idea–but then did not make the purchase. Thanks for the EZ link and the nudge to make it so!
    We are never prepared for the worst case, whether it happens to us or whether we view the images far away. I live in America and what I see everyday is the “not my responsibility” attitude and trying to put the blame and responsibility on someone else. As you say, we are EACH responsibile for ourselves and for one another and for the EARTH. Like it or not.
    I did hear that there was FREE public transportation the day(s) before the hurricane hit to carry people to safer places in and outside the city. But people CHOSE to stay put, for a myriad of reasons; some good, some bad. I live on an earthquake fault and I know for a fact NO ONE in this area ever thinks–yet, scientist have warned–it will really happen. Well, I'm buying the wind up radio today!!

  5. deb says:

    Has anyone tried these wind-up radio/flash-lights? The ones I've picked up in the store are DIM lights. Even at the high end gadget store at the mall (Sharper Image) I was disappointed with the flash light part. The link you provde has several, and I was wondering how to know which one really works for light.

  6. Sylvia says:

    Stefanie: Whoah. I really hope this stuff gets into the history books. Many many lessons to be learned. I have relatives in the Bay Area and my heart stops every time I hear about an earthquake there, but so far it hasn't been “the big one.” Of course we are just as vulnerable here, where three tectonic plates meet, and there is a lot less earthquake awareness here than in Cali. Heck, even I don't have my bookcases secured to the wall!

  7. Sylvia says:

    Deb, thanks for that info. I had heard that buses had not been made available and that Greyhound had even shut down, but I guess that information was wrong, or perhaps referring to after the hurricane.
    I just ordered the Jonta flashlight I linked to, so I can let you know how it is. I do have a shake flashlight (also linked), and it is certainly good enough for navigating and doing things, plus it is watertight (it's part of my canoeing kit). I just tried it in the closet with a book and it doesn't make a pool of bright light wide enough to read an entire line of text without moving it (at least not with 'daytime eyes'), but not having to worry about batteries is major, especially up here where nights are long in winter. There's nothing more comforting than light when it's dark. Light and a good book is even better!

  8. As a US citizen I would just like to ask an obvious question – where are our National Guards when we need them? Of course the answer is that they are being Inter-National Guards, so we are left with this city having turned into a chaos-zone overnight. Perhaps there is some other country, one that understands LEADERSHIP which we can look to for assistance, one that will pick up the ball that our own leader has so obviously dropped? Canada, if you were ever planning an US invasion, maybe now’s the time???!!!

  9. Sylvia says:

    Heh, I think the entire world would be behind that invasion! And who wouldn't like to see George Bush in custody in his tightie-whities?
    Oh, didn't you hear? The Guard was pre-positioned, with mountains of supplies, in the region before the hurricane. And if people believe that, they'll believe that Iraq had WMDs and was behind 9/11. Oh wait…
    I should add, though, that there was a lot of criticism of Canada's military's disaster response team when they took a couple weeks (as I recall) to get over to Indonesia for tsunami relief. They also cited access problems i.e. they couldn't have gotten to the affected areas if they had gone sooner anyway. Who knows.
    I hope people (and the media, who are doing their job for once) keep asking the uncomfortable questions so they can take their country back from the oil industry in 2008.

  10. Stefanie says:

    It would be the friendliest invasion ever 🙂

  11. Sylvia says:

    I think it would go something like this:
    “Excuse us… Would you mind if we came down there and gave you universal health care, decent education, reduced crime, and positive foreign relations? Really, it's no trouble!”

  12. deb says:

    I thought you’d like to read the following so I am putting it in this comment box (since it is about Katrina and the government’s utter failure to deal with the situation. It comes from a blog site that (if you haven’t visited, you might want to give a look) has been covering the hurricane from the beginning. The author is a law student at Notre Dame who is a self described amateur meteorologist>
    After hearing what Director Brown said: “Saturday and Sunday, we thought it was a typical hurricane situation — not to say it wasn't going to be bad, but that the water would drain away fairly quickly,” Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Brown said today. “Then the levees broke and (we had) this lawlessness. That almost stopped our efforts.” … “Katrina was much larger than we expected,” he said.
    the author of the blog has this to say:
    Ladies and gentlemen, the man who is in charge of our nation's disaster relief efforts is either a clueless idiot or a shameless liar.
    I am so angry, I am shaking as I write this, and I find myself almost at a loss for words. … But let me try.
    No one — NO ONE — who knows anything about New Orleans's geography and topography and levee system would ever have thought for a single moment on Saturday and Sunday that Katrina, if it followed the predicted path, was going to be a “typical hurricane situation.” …For how many years now has this article been out there?!? And this one? And many more like them? Did Michael Brown never read them? Was he not familiar with the science? Was FEMA's director unaware of what has been acknowledged for many years as the #1 most serious natural disaster threat in all of America?!? (Or, more immediately, did he not read the National Weather Service's statement on Sunday morning which predicted that Katrina would cause “human suffering incredible by modern standards”?) [end of quote]
    He goes on at some length, but I offer that little bit here just to give you an idea. And I think we all agree with him. Though, ok, hindsight is 20/20.
    http://brendanloy.com/ is the site’s address. It was listed on Slate this morning and the traffic is busy. It’s worth reading thru. He has a number of off-shoot sites that contain just Katrina info. One here http://brendanloy.com/page2.html#112511310874584823

  13. deb says:

    I read some reviews on the wind-up radio/flashlights. Seems any of the lights –shake or wind– produce only adaquate lighting for not hurting yourself. And I found this reviewer's insight helpful:
    “Well here in the FP+ we see one of the first applications of LEDs used in this manner. Although the instruction book clearly states that the output of the three long life, very rugged LEDs in the “spotlight” is only the equivalent of 1 (that's ONE) candlepower, it will help you locate big objects and keep you from injuring yourself caused by bumping into these big objects.
    (Are any of you old enough to remember the Christian Brothers inspirational radio shows that began “if you light one candle in the great void of darkness, it will shine like a beacon”? Anyway the concept is similar here that even a little light of knowledge is better than the total darkness of ignorance.)”
    Kind of like Abaraham Lincoln reading all those law books by candle light in the tiny Salem, IL, log cabin. Poor light didn't stop him.

  14. Sylvia says:

    I keep hearing story after story about FEMA and the National Guard stopping people and organization from reaching New Orleans to help (e.g. Red Cross, ham radio operators, truckloads of supplies from private donors, Forest Service water bombers to put out the fires, foreign aid and equipment, Amtrak trains ready to evacuate survivors, etc. etc. etc.) as well as armed officials preventing citizens from leaving the city. Australian journalists had to smuggle out some Australian tourists because the tourists weren't allowed to leave on their own. This is not just racism, classism, indifference, or incompetence; nor is it lack of infrastructure–the press had no problem getting around, communicating by cell and satelite, and getting their own supplies in. No. It looks sinister to me.
    I'm not usually one for conspiracy theories, but that seems to be the only logical explanation now. I wouldn't put it past the evangelical extremists to have infiltrated FEMA in hopes of magnifying, rather than reducing, the effects of any attacks or disasters and thus precipitate the “end times” they so desperately want to bring about. These are the people who are spending millions to relocate Jews to Israel because they think that will help bring about the “apocalypse.” Doing a little thing like securing top FEMA appointments, when they have already infiltrated the Congress, Senate, and Executive (and soon the Judiciary), would be no trouble for them.
    This now concludes the paranoia segment of the program!

  15. Sylvia says:

    As for the flashlights, my shake-up flashlight is certainly no match for my double-D, mugger-whacker Maglite, but it does more than just light up the stumbling blocks (to continue the biblical metaphors!). I think it is enough of light to read by, albeit with a narrow beam when it's held close to the page. Of course if someone had to do surgery/first aid or mechanical/electronic repair at night (you never know), then it might be problematic. On the other hand there is something to be said for a weak light that does the job without impairing your night vision. I've read stories where people navigated by starlight on new moons. Now that is good night vision!

  16. In reply to Sylvia's offer to invade the US: I wouldn't mind at all if you came by and brought those things with you, it is so very kind of you. Just let me know when you are coming so I can bake something nice. – Ninth Wave

  17. Sylvia says:

    Doh! I already had a casserole ready to bring along!

  18. Then I'll definitely do the dessert.

  19. Sylvia says:

    Sounds like a party!

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