In August, a massive solar flare interfered with satellite and radio communications around the globe. Less than three months later, an asteroid the size of an aircraft carrier whizzed by Earth close enough to remind us of how the dinosaurs met their end. Then in mid-November, it appears that the nation experienced its first cyber attack on a public utility system – destroying a large water pump in Springfield, Illinois.
Arthur Bradley, author of the “Handbook to Practical Disaster Preparedness for the Family,” hopes that such events will serve as a wake-up call to get better prepared. He explains that most people have no idea how bad it would be if infrastructures were disrupted for any extended period of time. Infrastructures, such as food, water, electricity, telecommunications, banking, emergency services, petroleum and gas distribution, and transportation, are all closely interdependent – the loss of one all but guarantees the loss of the others.
Without food, water, electricity, or the ability to travel to less affected areas, people would be forced to survive on the limited resources they have stockpiled. Unfortunately, most families have little or no stored water, less than a week’s supply of groceries in the cupboards, and no backup heating system. Given this low state of readiness, a nationwide emergency would likely lead to panic, suffering, and great loss of life.
Even in the absence of a major event such as these, disasters are commonplace. Hardly a day goes by that hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, pandemics, tsunamis, tornadoes, financial system collapse, or house fires don’t top the news. This past year was truly one for the record books with more than $265B in disaster damages globally. Here in the U.S., there were more tornado deaths than in the past 60 years, extensive flooding and droughts across the country, a Groundhog Day blizzard that killed 36 people, and Hurricane Irene, that led to widespread power loss across the Northeast.
Dr. Bradley offers the following suggestions:
(1) begin by stocking consumables that might end up in short supply, such as food, water, medicine, candles, batteries, fuel, ammunition, and diapers;
(2) shore up your home to ensure it is in good repair;
(3) plan for a possible evacuation by identifying at least two escape routes and destinations;
(4) keep an emergency kit in your automobile (e.g., gas can, blankets, water, flashlight, first aid kit), and never let the fuel level fall below half a tank;
(5) review your insurance policies to make sure that adequate safety nets are in place;
(6) have ready a properly sized backup heating system (if appropriate to climate);
(7) establish an emergency fund that can be quickly accessed;
(8) create a network of like-minded individuals committed to working together to survive dangerous events; and
(9) consider the special needs of those within your household, including children, the elderly, those with disabilities, and pets.