Disaster Preparedness Month

BlogHer Original Post

It's been a weird year/decade/century for all kinds of destructive events and no matter where you live, there's some kind of threat looming. According to a national survey, over one third of Americans have experienced natural disasters or emergency situations, yet only eight percent have done everything needed to prepare for these situations. September is National Emergency Preparedness Month and although it is getting late in the month (Hey, I was unprepared!), you don't need a calendar designation to get started; the best time to prepare is always NOW. 

Hurricane Irene

Image: Michael Forster Rothbart via ZUMA Press.


Growing up in Southern California, I became accustomed to hearing the rest of the nation insist - wish? - that "California is going to crack off during an earthquake and float away." I'd always think to myself, 'If only. Then, we'd have twice as much beach and America would have to find a new state to loathe/envy.'

But as much as I enjoyed earthquakes (still do), I did not care for the raging fires that seemingly arrived every year in SoCal. In 2007, the Slide Fire came within a 1/2 mile of our family's beloved cabin, home to many family memories since 1958. That was close.

However, not as close as the time my brother and his family moved to the Mississippi Gulf Coast just in time for Hurricane Katrina. They not only lost half of their home but at least five rental properties, including one that had floated over to another street. ("Well, I guess it's their house now!") All the beautiful furniture my brother had lovingly designed and built himself, gone, though he managed to save his wife's wedding dress…so romantic.

Seems that no matter where a person lives, Mother Nature will throw some kind of deadly tantrum, and being unprepared can be inconvenient, at best, or fatal, at worst. Here in Colorado, our natural disasters come in the blizzard, lightening and avalanche variety, with the occasional tornado thrown in for excitement. (Though, to be honest, the biggest killers are ski slope trees, which don't move when hit at high velocity.)

Back in the old days - let's say spring 2001 - the biggest threats to America were a terrorist attack, a major hurricane disabling the Gulf Coast and a catastrophic earthquake in the Bay Area. As of today, it's two down and one to go. When I lived in San Francisco, we were regularly informed that the fault line beneath us was a ticking bomb. This is still true, I'm sure, but life in The City goes on, still awaiting The Big One.

Briefly, I worked with the fine folks at the San Francisco Emergency Services who created a brilliant campaign called 72 Hours. The gist was, 'When the world explodes, don't expect much from the authorities. Plan to be self sufficient for at least three days.' I think the horrific experiences of Hurricane Katrina made that especially clear.

And though I still carry extra water and blankets in my truck, there's more to be done. First off, I still worry about my tribe down on the bayou. (And no, I don't mean near the bayou, I mean ON it. When you have crab dip at Chez Clisby, it means they've just caught crab off the backyard pier.)

So, for Xmas this year, I'm sending them Pelican's 1550 case to protect the precious family photos and irreplaceable documents. It promises to be "dust-proof, crushproof and watertight." Evidently, it also has some kind of magical O-ring seal and an automatic pressure valve. Sounds like they could probably take it in to space.

Also, everyone is getting a first-aid kit this year, including me. The American Red Cross, among others, sells them but even better, they tell you how to make your own. The 72Hours folks also have a comprehensive list for earthquakes and other disasters, including the tip that you'll need cash in small donations if banks are closed and ATMs aren't working. Credit cards may be worthless too. Good time be a stripper.


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