Are We Prepared for 2012?

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by Larry Miles

Coronal mass ejections, solar flares, hail, tornados–I wonder what else awaits us in 2012?  In March’s article I noted that 2011 was the most expensive year on record for natural disasters in the United States. 2010 was likely a bad year for you if you lived in Haiti. 2011 was without doubt a bad year for you if you lived in Fukushima, Japan. Fortunately, for us here in Crozet those years were relatively peaceful and enjoyable.

Having said that, however, if you wait until something bad really does happen before you begin to prepare, you will be too late and you will regret it.

So, where to start? If you begin to consider all the possible scenarios that could occur (earthquakes, tornados, nuclear meltdown, terrorism, etc.), it isn’t hard to be overwhelmed and then paralyzed into inaction. Who can possibly prepare for everything? But that doesn’t make it logical to do nothing. Part of the subconscious underpinning of this logic, in my opinion, is our belief that our dear leaders in government will always be there with the safety net. The police, fire, and rescue folks have it all under control and so there’s no need for action.

Last month I tried to point out the fallacy of this mindset by illustrating how a seven-minute thunderstorm easily overwhelmed the official response back in 2010.  After writing that article I felt a little concerned that public safety professionals might be offended by my conclusions, so I decided to ask one of them. I spoke with a man in law enforcement who read the last article I wrote. Was he offended? Was I wrong?  Quite to the contrary, he told me emphatically. Most citizens have no idea how self-reliant they will need to be in the event of a regional-level disaster, he said.  He told me that in the event of a disaster (natural or manmade) those who fare the best will, without a doubt, be those who’ve taken some basic precautions and prepared ahead of time.

He told me some of the things he and his family have done and directed me to the very place I am now going to direct you: the website for Virginia’s Department of Emergency Management.

Before we go there, however, a quick note on our community’s emergency response.  In the time since I wrote the last article, my neighbor’s house caught on fire when they were not home and was severely damaged.  As we all stood in the nearby street and yards I know that the level of fear each one of us felt at witnessing a tragedy unfold in such close proximity was tempered in large part by the amazing response of local police and fire officials.  A fire truck was literally on the street within five minutes after the call to 911.  So a short pause to sincerely thank the Crozet Volunteer Fire Department and those who serve our community in that unique way.

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management’s website, is found at http://www.vaemergency.com. A basic level of emergency preparation is not an overreaction, but rather a wise and reasonable response to potential challenges we may face.  While we cannot rely solely on government to cope with a regional emergency, we nonetheless should strive to “help those who are trying to help us.”

Virginia’s official emergency management homepage is a simple and easy to understand site. The menu bar on the left side offers typical “About Us” and “News” sub pages, but the one that everyone should investigate is the link called “Ready Virginia.” This link again reveals a page with a plethora of information. The page is modeled after the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) page, http://www.ready.gov/.  Both FEMA and Virginia advocate the same plan, summed up with these instructions: Get a Kit, Make a Plan, Stay Informed.

In subsequent articles we’ll examine each of those suggestions in detail, but for the moment it’s worth considering exactly what we’ve found.  The Commonwealth of Virginia is imploring citizens to exhibit a level self-reliance. It is asking us to be responsible for our futures and providing us with some very basic instructions on how to do it.

Next month we’ll discuss in detail what the Virginia Department of Emergency Management recommends that we put in our kit.  But meanwhile take a few moments to visit the website. They have instructions for those with infants and toddlers, those with special needs, and the elderly.

If a real disaster strikes, we are the ones who will be called upon to help one another.  Get to know the folks in your community, your neighborhood, and on your street.  Urge one another to start planning and get ready. Together, our community will be stronger and better prepared for whatever may be coming our way.