Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Too Often, It's Worse Than We Think It Will Be

Trey Smith

As I write this, it’s been nearly a week since Hurricane Sandy roared ashore on the East Coast of the U.S., leaving devastation in its wake. On day six after the storm, there are many communities still waiting to get their electricity restored.

If there’s one overarching lesson to be learned from Hurricane Sandy, it’s that the old standard, still publicized by emergency planning agencies all over this country — that people need to prepare for a disaster by stocking up on three days’ worth of emergency supplies — is woefully inadequate.

On day six, many residents of Long Island, the New Jersey shore, and outlying communities still have no electricity, which means they have no heat in November, no clean water flowing from their taps, no hot water to sterilize or clean anything, and no electricity to cook food. Which means they’re still eating food out of cans, nearly a week after the storm, if they have that much canned food left. No electricity means no ability for gas stations to pump gas, which means people can’t get in their cars and drive to buy more supplies. If they followed the advice of their local emergency planning agency, then they ran out of food three days ago.

And now comes the announcement that many of these communities won’t get their power restored until two weeks after the storm, leaving these people stranded and living in pre-civilization conditions for an inhuman amount of time.
~ from Lessons from Hurricane Sandy by Maria Tomchick ~
You'd think we'd learn this lesson after a while! It is the same advice given before Hurricane Katrina. It wasn't an adequate warning then either. When it comes to inclement weather -- hurricanes to tsunamis to tornadoes or earthquakes to floods to blizzards -- in today's altered climate three days ain't nothing.

So much of our lives in the modern western world are made possible by electricity, running water, functioning sewers and cell phones that, when a severe storm strikes and these systems are knocked off-line, a lot of us behave like lost children. We don't know what to do with ourselves.

Modern warfare targets these very same systems. If you can severely damage your opponent's infrastructure, you immediately zap the morale of the people. Everyday living becomes brutish and people struggle to stay healthy and safe.

In the future -- as storms grow worse and worse -- we need a new directive. Instead of preparing ourselves to be without necessary services for a mere three days, we should expect to have the ability to "go it alone" for a MINIMUM of one week. If you happen to live in a rural and/or more impoverished area, then you should double that to a MINIMUM of two weeks.

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