Sunday, September 11, 2005

Preparedness - by Howard Paul

I received this in an email and pass it along in the hopes that some will take heed.

The American Red Cross and others have been telling you how to prepare for a disaster, for years. Have you listened? Their advice is commonly ignored because people tell themselves "it will not happen to me."

I'm sending this to my relatives and friends, in the hope that my experiences in search and rescue (whoa -- 20 years now!!) will lend some credence to the absolute necessity to prepare to take care of yourself and your family.

In mountain and wilderness search and rescue we depend very little upon outside assistance. Small teams - two to four of us - carry what we need on our backs, prepared for 12-48 hours without support. But hardly anyone else is so prepared. Because of that when local services are severely delayed - or destroyed - such as in the enormous area of devastation on the Gulf Coast, most folks are desperate for aid, any aid from anywhere. Our societal norms are stretched and frequently break, resulting in chaotic danger.

As you have seen in the news this week, even with the best preplans and best efforts possible to respond to a disaster it will takes days for help to reach you; while the affected people and local officials are pleading for help from their state and federal government (and with my"insider" knowledge of the emergency services community I know that the response is actually working well, better than most folks understand). Because of this I want all of you to understand that you must be ready to take care of yourself.

In search and rescue we actually teach this to the public; with more"gadgets" out there (GPS receivers, cell phones) we work constantly to make folks understand they must learn to NOT depend upon them, as they fail, batteries die and the like. They MUST know how to survive in the backcountry until help arrives.

This happens time and time again because everyone believes "it will never happen to me, it is always someone else." Guess what- it does and YOU are the "someone else" of countless others.
There are now hundreds of thousands of people on the Gulf Coast who are your, and my,"someone else" in an urban wilderness.

I can survive out of my little Subaru for quite some time, on the equipment and supplies I carry for SAR work. Without the car I can carry it in my backpack and can care for a couple of others at the same time.

Here is some basic information about what you MUST do if your Michigan town is destroyed by a tornado; your New Mexico/Colorado border community is evacuated because of a forest fire, or several Ohio counties surrounding you are flooded, your California city is destroyed by an earthquake or your Colorado town is entirely isolated by a 200 year blizzard- or a "non-natural" catastrophe such as a terrorist strike or industrial accident/explosion.

The mountain men of the 1800s carried a "possibles bag." Even today mountain hikers (and SAR team members) carry the "10 Essentials," both are kits to survive. Your modern, civilized "possibles kit" comprises items you will need but without access to a bank or ATM, pharmacy, grocery or hardware store.

You must be ready, both physical and emotionally, to take care of yourself. You and your neighbors can become a remarkably strong unit, accomplishing quite a lot to survive! You should have available (and ready to move) your "possibles kit" (*are essential):

* Water (1 gal/person/day)
* Battery powered radio and batteries
* Easy to use food (breakfast bars, granola bars, etc).
* Pet food!
* Flashlight (that uses the same batteries as radio!)
* Essential medications for a week or more (pharmacies may be destroyed)
* First aid kit
* Spare eyeglasses
* Cash (for until you can reach a functioning bank or ATM!)
* List of phone numbers and addresses
* Pocket knife ("Swiss Army" type is great)
Non-perishable food AND manual can opener
Deck of cards (remember "manual" solitaire?)
Small games for the kids
Blankets or sleeping bags
Baby food and supplies
Plastic garbage bags

As an outdoors person I would add my own camping stove and tent, but that may be a "luxury."

Before you ever have to evacuate:

-You should predetermine a local meeting place to await help; also a not-to-distant relative's or friend's home to where you can travel on your own, if it is possible.

-You should predetermine someone to act as a hub to pass messages among family, friends and co-workers (one or two distant persons to call to advise you are OK and where you are).

-If you must evacuate let them know you are leaving and where you plan to go. Remember, everyone else will take the same routes, so unless your local officials order you to use designated routes, you should know the area well enough to travel lesser routes.

-If you must be relocated (such as New Orleans to Houston) remember to take your important papers (insurance, prescriptions or list of medications, identification, etc.) With all these items... well, it won't be pretty but survival will be "possible."

One last thought about preparation: if you or a family member is disabled or dependent upon oxygen, contact your local police department, fire department or EMS service and tell them. Call them today on a NON-EMERGENCY line so they can "flag" your address as one that may require special assistance in case of an evacuation. They will be glad to know this!

What else can you do? Find out if your community has a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). CERT teams are specially trained local volunteers that will fill in until outside help arrives. Why not join yours today? For more information go to these web sites right now - because your area's disaster might occur tomorrow:>

Howard Paul is a rescue member of the Alpine Rescue Team, the president of the Colorado Search and Rescue Board and the executive director of the Emergency Medical Services Association of Colorado.

(c) 2005 Howard M. Paul
Permission granted for non commercial publication and distribution. Please forward to your friends and coworkers.

1 comment:

Chris said...

I can really appreciate what you have said:

"it will never happen to me, it is always someone else." Guess what- it does and YOU are the "someone else" of countless others.

It has been my war cry as of recent months. I can't stop encouraging others to be prepared. It is real easy to say we will be ok here...

CERT training can give individuals more confident in their ability to help themselves as well as others.