THE WAKE-UP CALL OF 2017
It happens every year: June 1 is the beginning of the hurricane season for the U.S. Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Because of last year’s historic storms, the expectation is that people in those areas will have a heightened sensitivity to warnings and watches for big weather events this year. The rest of us should learn from these events as well. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria left permanent marks on the areas they impacted; and, with 17 named storms, the season was almost 50 percent more active than the 30-year average. 2017 was among the 10 most active and destructive Atlantic seasons on record. Even though most of us prepare for what we envision as a worst-case-scenario-to-be, Maria serves as an eye-opening wake-up call for what that can look like—in real terms. By some estimates, it will take over a year to repair Puerto Rico’s damaged infrastructure, and some of the destruction in the region will probably never be reversed. In this month’s issue, we’ll talk about some of the preparations you should make now for the possibility of equally devastating events in 2018. We also look at some things that government and first responders should question about their approach in readying for these horrific storms. Two questions about last year’s events stand out in my mind. First, were residents, governments and NGOS unprepared for these storms because these areas hadn’t been subjected to serious (category 3 or stronger) hurricanes for 12 years? Having spent time in south Florida before and during numerous hurricane seasons, I am aware of the preparations many people make. A lot of Floridians take serious steps in advance of the season. From stocking up on food and water to equipping their homes with hurricane shutters, they understand what the risks are, and they make a reasonable effort to be self-reliant when wicked weather approaches. But going 12 years without a truly bad storm can desensitize even the most resolute prepper. If Maria was truly a wake-up call, will they review and add to their survival stores this year so they can go longer without assistance from first responders and relief workers? I hope so. The same question applies to the local, state and federal public safety organizations and NGOS that would respond to areas impacted by these storms. Are their plans and SOPS up to date and practiced enough for the teams to be effective when the need arises? Are the relief supplies and equipment they need ready to go and where they ought to be? Now is the time to ask, “Where is … ?” and “Who will … ?” rather than the victims asking, “Where was … ?”, “Who should have … ?” and “Why didn’t … ?” after the floodwaters and wind subside and the rescues and rebuilding begin. My second question is, Are there some threats for which the average person simply can’t do enough preparation? In Puerto Rico, thousands of people were still without utilities and basic services more than six months after the storm. Even if these people had put away 1,000 percent of the supplies that the government and relief agencies suggest, they would only have had enough of the basics to last 30 days! Many are using solar panels and other means to get by, but increasing numbers have given up and are leaving the island. This reinforces the importance of having both hunker-down and bug-out plans in place. Whether you live in a natural disaster-prone zone or are concerned about profound civil unrest or an industrial or nuclear accident, take a look at what happened to the victims of Harvey, Irma and Maria. Then consider if there is any more you can do to protect yourself and your family from the wake-up call that might come your way.