Thursday, September 5, 2013

Disaster Preparedness Part 2

As I wrote in an earlier post, households must be prepared for a major disaster, which could be either man-made or weather-related. Even if the disaster doesn’t hit your area, the disruptions caused by it could directly affect you for weeks, if not months. If a disaster does occur in your vicinity, you must be prepared to evacuate or stay in your house for an extended period of time, possibly for weeks.

That means you should maintain a list of things you must take with you, and a stash of things needed to keep you alive if you are stuck in the house. Plan a worst case: the assumptions that you won’t be able to buy anything for a month, the water will not be drinkable, and gasoline will be unavailable. Keep important papers (passports, birth certificates, etc.) in an envelope ready to grab in case you have to evacuate.

You may want to keep an inventory of the civilian equivalent of military MREs, bags of beans, canned soups, extra propane tank for the grill, bottled water, powdered milk (especially if you have children), candles. See the website for more suggestions.

I don’t want to scare you, but if you think I’m an alarmist, let me list some of the possible disasters that could force you to evacuate or remain in your house:

Train derailment causing fire and toxic fumes, forcing evacuation. Happened recently in Canada.

Large factory fire causing damage and toxic fumes, forcing evacuation. Happened not all that long ago in Texas.

Nuclear power plant accident requiring evacuation, probably permanently. Happened in Chernobyl and in Japan following their earthquake.

Severe earthquake, possibly causing structural damage to your house or apartment building, forcing evacuation. There’s always a risk in California, of course, but an earthquake could also happen along the New Madrid fault in Missouri (which is due). It would cause widespread damage. The relatively small earthquake in Virginia a couple of years ago damaged the Washington Monument miles away and could be felt as far as New York (I felt it).

Tsunami: on the Pacific coast it might be caused by an underwater earthquake; on the Atlantic coast could be caused by landslide in the Canary Islands or sizeable meteor hitting the water.

Terrorist acts: such as blowing up key bridges and tunnels, especially along the East Coast; blowing up key rail lines; damaging refineries; setting off a dirty bomb in a major city. I’m not going to list them, but I can think of a number of bridges that, if out of commission for a period of time, would cause major disruptions in transportation resulting in delays in the delivery of vital goods.

Civil disturbances: In disaster situations, we see the best in people, and also the worst. If there are shortages of food and necessities, particularly over a period of time, there could be looting and rioting. Even if there are some supplies left in stores, you are better off staying at home and living off your inventory. Don’t risk going out and being injured, robbed, raped, killed, or mistakenly arrested.

No fuel: another possible problem could be severe shortages of fuel due to disruptions in supply caused by problems in the Middle East, an oil embargo, one of the above-mentioned disasters, or refineries shut down due to sabotage, natural causes, major repairs, or maintenance.

No electricity: collapse of the power grid due to weather, sabotage, or overload. Depending on how severe the damage is, could be without power for a week or more.

Other disasters, such as flooding, happening more frequently due to rising ocean levels; wildfires, such as we are seeing in the West; another Katrina or Sandy strength hurricane; large snowstorm, paralyzing cities and transportation for a week or more; a severe solar flare which could bring down the grid, fry electronics (including the computers that run your car), and cause major problems.

I hope none of these occur, but you know some of them will. As ocean levels rise, flooding will be more commonplace. We’ll always have a drought in one part of the country, and too much rain in another part. Whatever the problem might be, everybody should be prepared. It’s not a matter of “if” but “when” some kind of major disaster will strike. The world is a dangerous place, and is made even more dangerous by terrorists who want to do us harm. Let’s pray we don’t have a widespread disaster, but smaller, more localized ones, so that repairs can be made and things can return to normal somewhat quickly. Let us trust in God but be prepared with supplies of necessary items.

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