Just in the last 5 years alone, nearly a billion dollars has been spent throughout our nation upgrading and retrofitting buildings and structures so that previous disasters are not repeated. And yet not a single dime is being spent on preparing the people in order to avoid defeating responses to disasters.
Case in point: Many of you may not know, or may have forgotten that the World Trade Center was attacked in 1993. All kinds of studies were done afterwards as to how to make the buildings and the perimeter safer—ten thousand pound planters placed strategically around the outside, pictures of truck drivers taken for all deliveries and bomb-sniffing dogs were employed—yet NOTHING was done to make the people safer. In spite of many fire marshals expressing grave concerns about their lack of training after the 1993 WTC attack, nothing changed in training the people. Two-thirds of the on site fire marshals didn’t even know where the stairwells were at the WTC in 1993. That statistic did not change prior to 9/11 either. In fact 45 percent of the workers at the WTC did not even know the buildings had stairwells! Many of the critical human decisions that cost lives as a result of the 1993 attack were repeated verbatim during the 9/11 attacks. Hundreds more people would have survived 9/11 had they been trained WHERE the stairwells were, how to use the connecting hallways, and to actually take an immediate response in evacuating the building instead of doing nothing. Yes, I realize in hindsight that the thought of someone doing nothing after the first plane hit is unthinkable; but indeed, hundreds of individuals did absolutely that--nothing. Equipment and structures have been altered all over the U.S. as a result of 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the I-35W bridge collapsing, but there have been absolutely NO concerted efforts to educate people.
So, what can you do about this? Get yourself educated on the 10 Principles of Preparedness—particularly the first three areas, Spiritual, Mental, and Physical. I have been studying human responses to natural disasters nearly at a PhD level lately. Just in the last two weeks alone I’ve feasted on three hefty books on the subject. If I could summarize the most significant reoccurring theme in everything I’ve read, it is that human beings need to better mentally prepare for these kinds of events. (Of course there aren’t a lot of lay mans books that discuss spiritual preparedness, but that’s simply an indicator of a whole ‘nother issue.)
If the community won’t open their doors to educate you, don’t just sit there and complain—invite the community to come to you! Hold parties in your home in which you discuss what needs to be done as a group in the event of major disasters. I have frequently held “Preparedness Parties” in which I prepared yummy meals made right out of the pantry, handed out recipes, and we discuss specific preparedness topics. And yes, I’ve even created some games that help hit a point home that are entertaining, funny, and memorable. They are evenings of fun and socializing, not gloom and doom. As such, the things discussed are more memorable and more likely to be acted upon. I once even had a Ladies Night Pampered Preparedness Party in which we played games, got paraffin wax treatments on our hands and lots of yummy food to eat. (The house was full of women who wanted the hand treatments. Hee hee. Don’t you just love how bribery works?)
Community Preparedness Ideas
Here’s an idea for a game. Do you remember ever playing the game Pit? Well, I created a similar game. I created a bunch of cards with various supplies on them, including spiritual strength and physical strength. I also included some luxury items such as a generator, heated shower, etc.; then as the guests arrive, I had them select 10 cards blindly. During the course of the first hour of the party they traded what they had in excess in order to try and get what they needed to be perfectly prepared. It’s a real eye opener. So many people actually gota tad bit stressed out because they aren’t able to trade enough for food or water. And they found the generator or shower was useless without some of the more critical items. They also discovered that they’d rather not have to trade for items because they have no way of knowing what items others will have. So they'd just assume be proactive in having the item on hand initially for peace of mind.
I also did another game in which they are given a recipe which they have no doubt ever made before. And they are given only a few short minutes in which they have to create the recipe and make it edible. They are also given a pressure cooker in which they have to make the meal. (Most folks have never used a pressure cooker before) And lastly, they are only given a few other tools to use such as only a quarter cup measuring cup, one spoon, one fork, and a pitcher. So here they have a foreign recipe, foreign ingredients, and alien tools. Once the timer starts, chaos ensues. Food is flying. Folks are even panicking. It’d be quite funny if it wasn’t such a real representation of what can happen if people don’t better prepare with their tools and what they intend to eat in a survival scenario. Oh, yeah. And they learn a lot about “panicked communication.”
Push your community to offer realistic training for all community members and especially push your community leaders to TRAIN the so-called “rescuers” for major disasters. I was appalled to hear of a fireman in my community who completely dismissed a question raised by one of his students during CERT training. The student asked the question “What about during an EMP?” The cocky fireman quipped back “That’s not a life threatening event.” Can I just tell you that when I heard that my blood boiled? An EMP is NOT a life-threatening event--REALLY? Exactly how is the elimination of life lines, refrigeration, oxygen machines, surgical machines, automobiles (including emergency vehicles) classified, then?? A carnival??
Another way you can better prepare is to watch movies and read books that actively engage your mind in which you play a part in--such “what-if” scenarios. All of the successful Olympians will tell you that they run the race mentally before they run it physically. That’s important for all of us to do in being suitable prepared. I recommend “Red Dawn”, the “Jericho” television series (you’ll have to rent it), “2012” (it gives great perspective, but very little “story”), “Twister” (in surround sound is awesome!) and “The Day After Tomorrow” for some movies to learn from.
When it comes to better preparing your community, it’s important that you understand that you can’t ride out a disaster alone. There are all kinds of logistical problems with that. Even the most brutal gangs of today know that lesson. Whether you like it or not, the community you end up in during a disaster is going to be the community you fully rely on. Thus it does you no good to isolate yourself from them. You’re better off trying to improve the people around you through education and interaction one step at a time. You don’t need to start with the whole community at first. Start with your neighbors; then a larger block, etc. etc. until you’ve created a nice, strong nucleus of educated, like-minded people. You don’t need to be the brains behind the education either. You can call on expert resources. And you don’t need to spend any money or meeting rooms and supplies. Libraries usually offer their facilities for free and your community center sure as heck should be able to handle that as well. What you CAN do though is be the fuel behind the push for the community to get educated. So, no more excuses. Do it. And do it now.
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