Friday, September 02, 2005

Emergency Preparations

Glenn Reynolds writes sensibly and calmly about emergency preparations.
Well, it could have been worse, certainly. I do think that a firmer hand with looters early on, in line with "broken windows" theory, might have forestalled the more egregious lawlessness we're seeing now. But this is a natural disaster without parallel in American history -- like the Chicago Fire if it had spread across three states -- and disaster relief isn't like calling Domino's. Nor does the fact that we're Americans somehow offer supernatural protection from the consequences of a calamity like this.

Bridges are out, roads are blocked, boats are sunk, and all sorts of other infrastructure is down. Aid can't get through in quantity until that's fixed, at least somewhat. In a situation like this, the first week you get a trickle, the second week you get enough, and the third week you get pretty much all you want. We're still in week one. That [...] is why the standard disaster-preparation advice is to have enough food and water to get you through a week on your own.
I still have a lot of supplies I haven't used that I stockpiled after 9/11 and the beginning of the Iraq War. Just this summer, I finally broached a bag of rice that had been in my "emergency preparations." Thought I better use it while it was still useful. But I still don't have a short wave crank radio. One of those would have come in handy during the blackout that hit the Northeast two summers ago. And come to think of it, I ought to check the batteries on my emergency flashlights again.

After 9/11, I thought about taking some kind of EMT course, just to be prepared in case disaster hit again. I did at least take one of those 3 hour seminars on CPR. Now I'm thinking of taking an EMT course again. Any advice about those?

These situations seem to be coming up more regularly than less of late years and it's better to have some practical know how while you are in them.

See also Reynold's short piece on MSNBC
[M]any commentators have looked at the images of people without food, water, or much of anything and announced that this shouldn't be happening in America -- as if we enjoy some sort of supernatural immunity to natural disaster, or some sort of superhuman ability to make things better.

It doesn't work that way. The reason why people like FEMA and the Red Cross recommend that you stockpile enough emergency supplies to get through at least a week without food, water, or electricity is that it generally takes at least that long after a major disaster to get aid flowing. Roads are blocked, bridges are down, power plants -- and lines -- are wrecked, and communications are interrupted. For at least a week (and you're much better off to be prepared for two) you may be on your own.

It's too late for the people affected by Hurricane Katrina to do anything about that now. But it's not too late for the rest of us. Don't pretend you'll never need to be prepared for a disaster. Prepare, and hope that you never need to use it.
Free Will Blog adds:
If you don't have, at the very least, a bugout kit in your trunk, it's not rational to be surprised when you have to bug out and find yourself totally screwed. If you don't have a bugout kit and live in, for example, a giant washbasin, you're on borrowed time, and New Orleans is now the case study for that concept. There appear to be a lot of people who didn't even try to prepare for a disaster they all had been told was coming for a generation (then were told, point blank, 24 hours in advance, was now imminent) because they imagined that FEMA or the State of Louisiana had magical powers to save them, and it just doesn't work like that.

That said, the lawlessness issue is one that could potentially alter the scale of this catastrophe by an order of magnitude. There are tens of thousands of people in the city, and they should be getting out now, not next week. Relief teams should be able to work safely to try to get these people water and a bite to eat. Helicopters should be able to drop supplies to hospitals and pick up stranged New Orleaners without being shot at or without being accosted by an armed mob on the landing pad threatening to turn Black Hawk Down on them. Hopefully, the roving bands of gangers won't cost many of these people their lives, but because it could, it's an error in judgement that needs to be highlighted both for consideration in our response to this situation, and for consideration in planning our methods of responding to future catastrophes of this kind. Because there will be another, someday, and while we can be glad that what might have been wasn't, every person we can pull out alive is one little victory.

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