Troubling Optimism

my_street_katrina_sunset.jpgIt has now been a year since hurricane Katrina did her natural disaster thing down on the gulf coast. After having seen the great disaster that Katrina was and knowing that it was the most expensive or costly natural disaster in United States history, the question arises as to how prepared the American people are for the next great disaster and if we aren’t ready, are we making efforts to become ready?

TIME Magazine recently posted an article addressing the issue of preparedness in America, or more accurately, the lack thereof. It seems that the greater majority of Americans – 91% according to a study by the Hazards and Vulnerability Institute at the University of South Carolina – live in moderate-to-high risk areas for natural disasters. That makes sense since we live in a natural world. Yet a frighteningly low percentage of Americans – 16% of a TIME poll – feel that they are prepared for the next big disaster.

Perhaps American optimism is not working in the people’s favor when it comes to natural disasters. More and more development is happening in coastal areas. All of this development isn’t making the disasters go away. In the gulf coastal areas it’s quite the contrary, since development eliminates wetlands, which act as buffers to hurricanes and the like and also increase the amount of damage done when a hurricane strikes these areas. We can’t blame the storms for destoying things – like they consciously decided to target populated areas. We put the people there, knowing that such an event was possible, but I guess we just hoped, prayed and maybe believed that nothing would happen.

127183037_b8b79b58ac.jpgThere is a general feeling of invulnerability among the American people, which seems to get us into trouble when the storms come, the fires start and the earth shakes. Many don’t believe that such an event could happen. If something then does happen, pride kicks in, or a warped stubbornness and determination not to be out done by Mother Nature and we’re then fixed on not being pushed around. So we build right in the exact same place, having not learned a thing from our mistakes. That is, of course, only one possibility as to why we continue to drop the ball on emergency preparedness and efforts to avoid disasters of Katrina’s scale from happening again.

ap007_th.jpgNow to say that America has done nothing to improve things and prepare for future disasters is untrue. There have been actions taken and some have even been effective. For those things we should be grateful, but we shouldn’t settle on only improving a couple of things. The system can be improved upon and needs to be. There is a whole lot of work that still needs to be done.

The lack of preparation and concern by the general public is a strange phenomenon and there are a lot of factors involved, but what continues to be certain is that earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, volcanoes, floods, and all the other creations of Mother Nature will continue to be alive and kicking across America. Those things aren’t going away.

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Are You Ready?

The Center for American Progress Action Fund included in the August 10, 2006 Newsletter the following:

Emily Hesaltine, a 20-year-old intern for the Federation of American Scientists, took two months to single-handedly improve the Department of Homeland Security’s preparedness site, Ready.gov. Check out her work at ReallyReady.org.

ReallyReady.org is a GREAT site for emergency preparedness information. It provides simple, understandable definitions of different emergency situations (e.g. Earthquakes, winter storms, pandemics, chemical attack) and gives equally understandable direction on how to identify, prepare for and respond to each situation. If you have ever wondered what a pandemic is, the definition is there. If you’ve ever wondered what to do if you are driving down the road and see a tornado forming anywhere or hear about it on the radio, instructions are there. If you are concerned about what to do in the case of a chemical threat, from either a spill or attack, instructions on how to remain safe are there.

The key to surviving an emergency is in preparedness and the ability to remain calm and to think clearly. The ReallyReady site gives us the tools to deal with the immediate situation and once the initial event is over, you can then rely on your long-term planning if necessary. That should include food and water storage that will provide for your family for periods extending beyond the 72-hour emergency status to anywhere up to a year.

For those who say that faith and God will get them through, remember that God gave you a brain when He created you and He does expect you to use it.