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Archive for November, 2010

The Government’s Last Resort To Natural Disasters

25 Nov

Natural disasters can and do happen everywhere and, for the most part, the come totally unexpected. That is part of what makes them disasters to begin with. Other times it might be the sheer size of an event that makes it a disaster. New Orleans knew that they would get a hurricane sooner or later they just did not expect it on that scale. Chicago knows they will get snow and are ready for it. What they are not ready for is 12 feet of snow in 3 days. Some places might be ready for that and even expect it but when an event happens in a place that was not expected on a scale nobody had considered you end up with a natural disaster.

For the most part the civil authorities prepare for ”the worst.” The Outer Banks of North Carolina has evacuation routes to help people safely get out of the area should a storm shift course. From Kansas through Florida there are warning sirens in case of tornadoes and towns that are under the shadow of volcanoes do as well in case one erupts enough to melt the snow and flood the valleys below. Even San Fransisco has earthquake sirens. That is all fine and dandy but what happens when these scenarios are worse? The storm in the Carolinas changes path at the last minute and grows in strength? Multiple tornadoes strike in a small area? The eruption is bigger than just melting ice and snow? The epicenter of the earthquake IS San Fransisco? The local civilian authorities would be in over their heads and their ability to act compromised.

This is when the military needs to step in and help. They do not take take over just help because the have what is needed. The most important thing they can offer is well organized manpower and the ability to communicate up a chain of command so that the civil authorities have a greater idea of what they are dealing with and how to best distribute what they have.

The other thing the military can offer is the ability to get manpower and supplies where they are most needed. Not only can items be flown in by plane, they can be moved by truck or landed by helicopters. The helicopters also provide a way to evacuate injured people for treatment if they can not be treated in the field. The US did this during the Haiti disaster using hospital ships.

Actions like this are not what the military trains for, however, the skill set and capabilities they have can help keep a bad situation from getting worse.
Natural disasters can and do happen everywhere and, for the most part, the come totally unexpected. That is part of what makes them disasters to begin with. Other times it might be the sheer size of an event that makes it a disaster. New Orleans knew that they would get a hurricane sooner or later they just did not expect it on that scale. Chicago knows they will get snow and are ready for it. What they are not ready for is 12 feet of snow in 3 days. Some places might be ready for that and even expect it but when an event happens in a place that was not expected on a scale nobody had considered you end up with a natural disaster.

For the most part the civil authorities prepare for ”the worst.” The Outer Banks of North Carolina has evacuation routes to help people safely get out of the area should a storm shift course. From Kansas through Florida there are warning sirens in case of tornadoes and towns that are under the shadow of volcanoes do as well in case one erupts enough to melt the snow and flood the valleys below. Even San Fransisco has earthquake sirens. That is all fine and dandy but what happens when these scenarios are worse? The storm in the Carolinas changes path at the last minute and grows in strength? Multiple tornadoes strike in a small area? The eruption is bigger than just melting ice and snow? The epicenter of the earthquake IS San Fransisco? The local civilian authorities would be in over their heads and their ability to act compromised.

This is when the military needs to step in and help. They do not take take over just help because the have what is needed. The most important thing they can offer is well organized manpower and the ability to communicate up a chain of command so that the civil authorities have a greater idea of what they are dealing with and how to best distribute what they have.

The other thing the military can offer is the ability to get manpower and supplies where they are most needed. Not only can items be flown in by plane, they can be moved by truck or landed by helicopters. The helicopters also provide a way to evacuate injured people for treatment if they can not be treated in the field. The US did this during the Haiti disaster using hospital ships.

Actions like this are not what the military trains for, however, the skill set and capabilities they have can help keep a bad situation from getting worse.

 
 

Hurricane Katrina and the Economy

24 Nov

It is almost impossible to measure the economic effects of a catastrophe such as Hurricane Katrina. Even the cost of such things as repair and clean up can be hard to gauge although some experts estimate the cost of those efforts at $105 billion.

Part of the reason why the cost of repair and clean up related to Hurricane Katrina can’t be estimated is that those efforts are still going on. Homes and other structures destroyed and damaged by Katrina are still being replaced and repaired in New Orleans.

Since it’s a well known fact that construction and repair costs increase over time because of inflation this would have to be figured into cost estimates as well. Therefore any figure you hear about the amount of damage done is simply an educated guest.

Impact on the Economy

Katrina’s impact on the economy goes far beyond simple costs. All of the income lost to individuals and businesses has to be figured in. This too is hard because much of the cost estimates will be little more than guesses.

All of the salary and benefits lost to the people who were thrown out of work by the economy has to be figured in. So does all the income lost to businesses which were forced to close by the hurricane. Since many businesses were closed for months or years this can quickly rise to a huge figure.

The long term impact is even harder to gauge because a major American city, New Orleans was simply shut down for a period of well over a year. Such an event was unprecedented in American history and its effects still haven’t been calculated.

The cost of government efforts including rescue, cleanup and moving all the displaced persons around has to be added. This can quickly run to several billion dollars and some of those costs are ongoing. Many people forced to move from New Orleans are still living in other cities and receiving government benefits.

The sorry truth is that it will probably be impossible to estimate the true cost of Hurricane Katrina. The disaster’s effects are still being felt especially in New Orleans but in other parts of the country as well. The people of Louisiana and the American taxpayer will be paying the bill for Katrina’s after effects for generations to come.

 
 

What Does Hurricane Katrina Teach Us About Disaster Preparedness?

24 Nov

There are some important lessons that individuals and families must learn about disaster and disaster preparedness from Hurricane Katrina. Learning these lessons can help your family survive and prosper.

Lesson 1) Don’t expect immediate aid from the government. If Hurricane Katrina taught us anything is that it takes time for government to respond. Politics, bureaucracy and simple logistics can delay aid or help for days or even weeks. This means that you should not assume that government will take care of you or help you after a disaster. Be prepared to fend for yourself or seek help from friends, family and neighbors.

Lesson 2) Do it yourself. Since government won’t help you, you should be prepared to take action to keep yourself and your family safe after a disaster. This could mean keeping basic supplies such as food that doesn’t need refrigeration, bottled water and fuel for cooking in your home. It could also mean evacuating an area at the first sign of a disaster. Many people suffered needlessly in New Orleans because they sat around waiting for government help rather than taking action themselves.

Lesson 3) Be prepared to help others. Since it takes time for government to respond you will have to be prepared to help friends, family, neighbors and others. In particular you may have to help elderly, handicapped persons, the poor and others. If you’re evacuating an area make sure that elderly neighbors can get out. If you have space in your car, give them a ride. Don’t assume that government or somebody else is going to help others if you see someone in distress try and help them. Many people died in New Orleans because their friends or neighbors thought the government would do something.

Lesson 4) Be prepared to get out. Much of the worst suffering in New Orleans occurred because people were not prepared to leave the city quickly. If you live in a disaster prone area create an evacuation plan. Make sure that your vehicle is in good running order and you have extra gasoline available. Also bring food and water along and have a place to go to. Have an evacuation plan before you go. Try to avoid taking major highways in an evacuation because these often get blocked by traffic jams. Make sure that all family members are accounted for and make sure that elderly friends, family members and neighbors can get out.

 
 

Have an Evacuation Plan

23 Nov

The most vivid images most of us have of Hurricane Katrina are those of all the people who were trapped in New Orleans after the hurricane. These people and their families got trapped because they didn’t have an evacuation plan.

An evacuation plan is a plan to get out of your area fast if there is some sort of disaster.

If you live in a place prone to hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes or other catastrophes you should definitely have an evacuation plan for yourself and your family.

The first step in creating an evacuation plan is to take a look at the maps of your area and plan ways out. Take a look at the roads and highways that lead out of your areas and find the best way out. Something to remember is that major highways such as interstates often get blocked by traffic jams during disasters. This means it is a good idea to look for other routes out of your community.

You should also plan where to go for example to a relative’s home. Decide if you want to drive straight there or to drive to an airport or a train station in another community. Something to consider is that such facilities are often jammed in disasters.

As part of your plan you should decide what you plan to take with you. Definitely plan to bring copies of important documents such as birth certificates and insurance policies. Also have some sort of record of your all your banking and investment accounts and how to access them with you. To save space you can save all of this data as digital images and put it on a flash drive or a laptop computer.

Two items you should definitely bring with you are a laptop and a cell phone. Before you go should definitely call somebody at your destination and tell them when you’re coming. Make sure that a person there has your cell phone number so they can check on you.

You should also make plans for elderly, handicapped and other friends, relatives or neighbors who can’t get out. If possible you should plan to pick elderly relatives and bring them along.

Finally you should make sure that you have a dependable vehicle available and enough gasoline. Therefore it might be a good idea to have one or two gas cans available before you leave.

 
 

Where to Go After a Disaster

23 Nov

You can learn a lot about where to go for help after a disaster by studying the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Katrina showed us what happened in a major disaster and what average people can expect.

A first thing to expect is that government response will be slow. It could be days or weeks before the military or rescue workers arrive to help you. Even when they do these people will be helping those who need help most and may not be able to do anything for persons not in immediate danger.

This means that you will probably have to seek things like food and water yourself. The first place you should go to get food and other basic supplies is the place you would normally go, namely supermarkets or discount stores. After Katrina managers and employees opened up stores and handed out food and other items to the public. In many cases they provided needed items to people at no charge.

If you work at a supermarket, hardware or discount store it might be a good idea to go to work. Even if the electricity is out, people may need your help handing out supplies. After Katrina, Wal-Mart and other retailers sent in truckloads of supplies that were distributed for free.

Volunteers and charitable organizations should also start appearing shortly after a catastrophe. These people will be doing things like handing out food and other supplies and helping people. You should have no problem locating these people and getting their help.

Groups like the Salvation Army could set up kitchens to cook food for people. They may also hand out other supplies including water, personal hygiene items and clothing. This means you should be able to get help if you need it. Many of these efforts will be organized in conjunction with the military and other authorities.

If you’re not doing anything you should consider pitching in and helping. Many of these groups will need help and they will probably appreciate it.

Some of the volunteers may also be able you to do things like fix up your home or clear debris. Many church groups come to help individuals after a disaster. A good place to seek help is the churches in your area.

At some point after the disaster, government and insurance company officials should come to help people with paperwork for insurance claims and government benefits. There should be facilities where you can meet with these people and get their help.

The main thing to remember is that after a disaster you won’t be alone. Many people will come to help you.

 
 

Should You Be Prepared for Natural Disasters?

22 Nov

The fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina undoubtedly has many people wondering if they should be prepared for natural disasters. The answer to this question is yes a person should be prepared for natural disasters but in the right way.

Average people should take sensible precautions for natural disasters that might occur in their area. Californians should prepare for earthquakes and people on the Gulf Coast should prepare for hurricanes. On the other hand, people shouldn’t go overboard or let disaster planning take over their lives.

Instead people should take a few sensible precautions such as having a first aid kit and possibly supplies of food, bottled water, batteries and other basic supplies in their homes. Most people should also have an evacuation plan and a place to go if they are forced out of their home.

There is no reason for the average person to build an emergency shelter, stock up on seeds or guns and ammunition. Spending too much time and effort on disaster planning is a waste of both time and effort.

Indeed many people ignore some more sensible precautions that they should take such as having ways to access bank and credit card accounts and insurance policies. In many cases persons don’t take step to protect finances, government information etc.

A good way to begin preparation for disasters is to find out what kind of disasters might occur in your area. Then study the impact of past disasters to learn what precautions you should be taking. There are many websites and books that can show you what you need to do.

A next step would be to educate your family sit down with all family members that are old enough to understand and tell them what they will need to do. Your children should definitely be involved in the process if they are old enough to understand.

The final step is to be alert and observant about your world and what’s going on around you. Pay attention to the news and watch for items that might affect you. If you see reports about a looming disaster start taking sensible precautions. Something to remember is that those who are prepared will almost always be better off than those who are not.

 
 

How Government Responds to Disasters

22 Nov

If we can learn one thing from Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath is that an effective government response to a disaster is not guaranteed. Authorities may not take action quickly enough or effectively enough to help average people.

This means that citizens will have to take some responsibility for their safety and survival. An example of the kinds of things citizens may have to do for themselves is to find their own way out of a disaster area. People may also have to provide their own food and water for some time after a disaster.

The best advice to average people in a major disaster area would be to get out and get out fast. In particular families with children, the elderly and those with health problems should leave as soon as they can. This means that it might be a good idea for such people to leave an area before a hurricane and stay away until they know it is safe to return.

Another good piece of advice would be to be willing to pitch into help. For example if you are in a position to help others get out of a disaster area do so. If you have food or water be willing to share it.

Also be willing to do things that you might not normally be willing to do. For example you may have to take part in rescue efforts, firefighting or caring for injured people after a disaster. Authorities could be stretched thin and unable to help each other. This means citizens will have to help their neighbors.

During Katrina many people were rescued because private individuals came into the city with boats and helped people get out. Many others were helped by private and religious charities that came in and took the place of government.

A final piece of advice would be to look for alternatives to government in the aftermath of a disaster. If you need food try going to a church or to a private store like a Wal-Mart or a supermarket. Many private store managers handed out food and other goods to citizens after Katrina.

If government comes to help, accept its’ help but be prepared for government services to be limited after a disaster.

 
 

Have a Disaster Preparedness Plan

21 Nov

Many individuals and families went through a lot of suffering during Hurricane Katrina because they didn’t have a disaster preparedness plan. If you don’t want your family to go through the same nightmare, you need a basic disaster preparedness plan.

All a disaster preparedness plan is a list of basic steps you can take if the unthinkable happens. You can make one up by thinking the unthinkable and creating some responses.

A good basic question you can ask yourself is: if we get forced out of our home where will we go? An answer might be grandma’s house or Uncle Joe’s place. Then ask yourself how will we get there? Will we drive or will we fly?

Other questions you might ask yourself are what will we do if the power goes out for a few days? How will we cook? What will we eat and how will we keep warm? If you can answer questions like this you will be creating a disaster preparedness plan.

Then you can sit down with your family and discuss the plan. It might go something like this: if a hurricane forces us out, we will all gather here at the house. Then we will drive to Uncle Joe’s house in Arkansas. The first thing we must do when he hear about a hurricane is to get back to the house.

Then you can delegate a few tasks for example dad can be in charge of getting the car ready by checking the oil and seeing if there is gasoline. The children can be in charge of loading the card while mom is in charge of getting the family financial information ready.

Dad can also be in charge of covering the windows in the house and turning off the gas and electricity while the family is gone. The kids can be in charge of throwing out the trash and extra food.

Something to remember is that even a bad plan is better than no plan. Simply planning will make you think about disasters and prepare for them. The more planning you do the better prepared you will be.

 
 

Disaster Preparation: Documents and Finances

21 Nov

One of the biggest mistakes people make in a disaster to not have essential documents and basic information with them. In many cases, people take elaborate precautions but don’t make any efforts to preserve vital information necessary for everyday life with them.

If you are forced out of your home as the people were after Katrina will you be able to access your bank accounts, insurance policies, government benefits and credit cards? Will you be able to do things like cash a check or pay your bills? What about your prescriptions will you be able to get them if you need them?

You can make life for yourself and your family a lot easy if you make a basic document survival kit that you can take with you. This is simply a book or folder that contains copies of basic documents you might need. You can even create a digital kit by scanning documents saving them on a flash drive or one of those services that backs up your data online.

This kit should include the following information:

  • A list of all your bank accounts including the account number & routing number. It should also include contact information and website information for each bank you use.
  • A list of all your insurance policies with the policy number and contact information for the insurance company.
  • A list of all your prescriptions with contact information for your doctor or doctors.
  • Lists of individuals might need to contact such as friends or relatives and your employer.
  • A list of all your investments and contact information.
  • A list of professionals you use such as doctors, lawyers, insurance agents with contact information.
  • A list of any government benefits you receive and contact information for the agency that provides them.

The kit should also contain these copies of these documents:

  • Driver’s licenses
  • Social Security cards
  • Insurance policies
  • Wills
  • Birth Certificates
  • Deeds or titles to property you own.
  • Mortgages
  • Rental agreements
  • Title to your car
  • Checks
  • Tax returns for the last two years
  • Business documents

You should have this information for every member of your family. Having such documentation available will make things much easier.

Something to remember is that identity thieves could use the data on these documents to steal from you. This means you should keep these documents in a secure location and keep them hidden unless you need them.

 
 

Natural Disaster Checklist – Make Sure You Are Prepared

20 Nov

When natural disasters hit, there is generally very little time to get yourself sorted out and make sure your family is kept safe. In that time, you need to think clearly and have a certain procedure and plan so that you are able to work efficiently and get yourself in a safe situation quickly. Here are some helpful tips to help you make a checklist for yourself in case of any natural disasters in the future.

Be Aware – Regularly check the local weather stations and keep up to date on the warning systems and alerts which will give you the earliest warning of any upcoming situations. The National Weather Service issues information and warnings when there is imminent danger in an area so that people are able to take precautions. By staying aware of these circumstances you will be able to stay abreast of the situation and lower your chances of being taken by surprise.

Know Where You Are Headed – If there is a need to take cover and get to a safe environment, then you need to know exactly where you will go in a given situation. It is also important that your family are all aware of this plan and know where to meet you if you are not all together. Make sure you include your pets in the evacuation plan and that you have a plan ready for where they will go in the event of a disaster.

Prepare the House – Make sure you are aware of where the main valves are for all the utilities in the house. It is important to turn off the mains switches for the gas, electric and water supplies to house. These can all be added dangers if there is a natural disaster and it is safer to have them all disconnected in an event.

Always have this information laid in plenty of time and make sure that everyone involved in the plan and who lives in your household are all aware of the details and are involved in the process. This allows the evacuation and safety to be quick and efficient. Have cell phones that are charged and have emergency numbers saved into the phone memory so that you always have them on hand.

Organization is the key. As long as you have a plan that everyone is aware of and involved in, this will limit any danger and confusion should a natural disaster occur in your area.