For the last couple days here in Florida, I’ve spent a lot of time listening to intense coverage about the possible path of Hurricane Irene. From these news reports, I came away with the impression that Floridians take preparedness very seriously.
Or do they?
Clearly hurricanes are a yearly occurrence for anyone living along coastal or near-inland areas of this region. If anyone needs to be chronically prepared for some very tough (but predictable) events, it’s the folks in Florida.
Yet the radio announcers, covering the storm’s path, continually urged people to put aside food, water, flashlights, plywood, duct tape, and other hurricane necessities before the storm became imminent. And why were they doing that? Evidently it was because not enough people actually were.
To me, this seems the height of foolishness or naïveté or something similarly baffling. I mean, here’s a state that – yearly – faces some of the most fearsome and powerful forces in nature. And what do people do? They flood Home Depot in the hours leading up to the storm and try to get plywood that many have no idea how to affix to the outsides of their windows. They panic.
I don’t mean to pick on Floridians here, but am merely using this beautiful state to illustrate a broader point: namely, despite the fact that folks here have constant and chronic experience with tragic storms, many still don’t “get it” and just won’t prepare. Go figure.
About a year and a half ago, at home in Idaho, we had a serious windstorm with sustained winds of about forty-five miles an hour, with gusts much higher than that. We knew it was coming. We were warned with several days of forecasts. We prepared for it. We had water, a means to cook, a means to stay warm, a means to flush the toilet, and a means to see in the dark. In the time preceding the storm, we battened down the hatches: took a dump run, cleaned up the outside, and prepared the livestock. (The one thing I forgot to do was re-stake the young fruit trees.)
But some neighbors didn’t do any of this. Why, I don’t know… but they arrived home in the midst of the storm to a cold dark house. Since they’re entirely dependent on electricity, they had no lights, no heat, no way to cook, etc. We invited them over for dinner and had a pleasant visit, but once again it illustrated a broader point: WHY weren’t they ready? Didn’t they pay attention to the storm warnings? Even if they didn’t, why weren’t they prepared to be without power for a mere few hours? In this case our power was only out for five hours. What if it had been five days?
Folks, this is inexcusable. If you live in a place that regularly sees hurricanes or other natural disasters, I would expect everyone to have the necessary preparations in place to cope with all but the most severe storms. (Obviously this doesn’t count for the Katrinas or Hugos or Andrews that simply devastate a community. No one can “prepare” for that.) If you live in a place, like us, where a good snowstorm can strand people for days at a time, I would expect everyone to have the means to cook, see, stay warm, get water, and feed their animals.
Our severe windstorm and most hurricanes at least have the luxury of advanced warnings, thanks to the efforts of alert weathermen. But what if we’re afflicted with a natural disaster without warning? Earthquakes and tornadoes can strike with little or no notice.
That’s why I’m constantly nagging everyone to have the basics ready and available so you can live with moderate comfort through most service disruptions (or, alternately, to evacuate as necessary).
Being here in Florida for a mere three days, it’s gone through my head how vulnerable I am should something happen. The only “preparedness” item I have with me is a flashlight. I have no food, no water, no medical gear, no firearm. I don’t even have the emergency car kit we keep in our vehicle at home. I have nothing that could be used to mitigate any dire circumstances if the bleep were to hit the fan NOW. It’s kind of an unsettling feeling.
But once I’m home in the bosom of my family, I’ll be ready to handle the range of natural or artificial disasters we can expect in our region, both long-term and short-term.
I hope all the lovely Floridians I’ve met on this trip will do the same.