Tags: Emergency | Preparedness | Nonsense | Just | Good | Sense?

Emergency Preparedness @ Nonsense or Just Good Sense?

Sunday, 24 April 2005 12:00 AM

You want me to have emergency phone numbers in my car, at work and on the refrigerator, flashlights, extra batteries, an emergency radio, bottled water and meals ready-to-eat? Next you will want me to buy duct tape and plastic. You know how that went over a couple of years ago.

Besides, preparedness is for people in big cities with big buildings and states with earthquakes and hurricanes. Isn't it?

But hey, wait a minute! Recent experience shows that the public must be involved in its own emergency preparedness planning. Part of this is being prepared to deal with the reality that depending upon government, federal aid and assistance and other programs alone is generally foolish unless you're prepared to sleep on a city street during a widespread power outage, live in a tent or school shelter after a tornado or flood, or wait for the fire department to get you down from a burning high-rise building. Ask the people in Florida who were prepared and those who were not.

Preparedness, even with advanced equipment, technology, inter-operability, tested procedures and lots of money, is not most effective if the public does not take steps to educate and train themselves to respond to threats and potential emergencies.

The difficulty in promoting preparedness and getting people to take action is the confusion of understanding when an emergency is probable, likely to affect their family and offer severe consequences. Personal preparedness and acceptance of the new role that people are their own first responder is essential to being truly prepared for a crisis, disaster or emergency.

Despite a long history of disastrous fires, floods, mudslides, earthquakes and tornadoes, only about half of the people in the greater Los Angeles area have taken some steps to be prepared for a disaster. However, the other half have not. That's at least 5 million people admittedly unprepared. If recent disasters do not get people to change their optimistic view of their likelihood that they will be involved in a disaster, then nothing will.

People spend a lifetime building a lifestyle that can be wiped out in minutes. It makes sense to protect against or at least plan for that eventuality.

People are not fearful enough about a terrorist attack or a natural disaster and the damage to their lives and community that could happen. Perhaps they should be frightened out of their wits, but apparently not. The 9/11 Commission report says we are not safe yet. Despite all this, only 2 out of 10 people in this country feel "very prepared," according to the American Red Cross, for a catastrophic event.

Only half of parents polled admitted that they knew the emergency plans of their children's school. The number of people who know the emergency preparedness plans at their job is also about half. The number of people who say that they have a family emergency plan that covers a place to meet if they are evacuated has gone down, not up, in the past year.

These statistics suggest that people have a bias toward being optimistic and thinking "it won't happen to me" rather than considering the consequences of "what if it does happen to me and I am not prepared."

We need to understand the danger we face and the possible manifestations. We must decide and evaluate that for ourselves. Oftentimes half the population goes into meltdown and panic, buys every bottle of water, carton of eggs, loaf of bread and gallon of milk available in the prospect of stores closing for days and deliveries not being made for the near future.

So, is preparedness an attempt to have the population worried, insecure and compliant as a means of control, or just an attempt to allow elected officials to say that they are doing something given all the uncertainty in this uncertain world?

There are many ways of promoting preparedness awareness. Campaigns such as "Ready.gov" tell people to prepare for emergencies. However, despite all the public service announcements, by December 2003, only 4 percent of people polled could even name the government Web site that offers information about preparedness. More than 4 out of 5 respondents did not even take a guess.

We tell people to prepare for a disaster or emergency and be their own first responder because government cannot be everywhere when help is needed. Perhaps we should spend less time promoting preparedness and more time promoting buying blue tarps, tents, meals ready-to-eat and more duct tape and plastic.


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You want me to have emergency phone numbers in my car, at work and on the refrigerator, flashlights, extra batteries, an emergency radio, bottled water and meals ready-to-eat? Next you will want me to buy duct tape and plastic. You know how that went over a couple of years...
Sunday, 24 April 2005 12:00 AM
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