THE WAKE-UP CALL OF 2017

American Survival Guide - - FIRST WORDS - —Mike Mc­court

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.

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