TDC Note – Remember, these are our neighbors and when disaster strikes in our neighborhood, depending on the situation, they will be knocking or beating down our doors. A scared, frightened, desperate to care for their child parent can be one of the most dangerous people that we encounter during a disaster.
by J. D. Heyes
If you’ve ever been a preparedness-minded person, then Hurricane Matthew should have provided you with updated information about how not to act in a natural disaster.
As the UK’s Daily Mail reported, millions of residents in Florida and up the East Coast heeded storm warnings and fled.
Scores of photos accompanying the story showed miles and miles of cars and trucks clogging roads out of the purported hurricane zone, ominous-looking storm clouds, police and National Guard troops on the job and so forth.
As predicted, the storm – which had already devastated much of Haiti and Cuba – delivered on its promised wrath. Within 12 hours of hitting the U.S., a million people were without power and storm surges had caused a great deal of damage and flooding.
But earlier versions of the story also showed something else: Panic. People were lined up at food centers and grocery stores, piling in as much as they could into their shopping carts. In other words, despite several days’ worth of warnings, there were still scores of people unprepared for Matthew’s arrival.
Resources will vanish quickly in an emergency
Within a few hours, entire stores were practically sold out – of everything. Photos showed store shelves that were completely bare. Initially, shoppers were sedate and compliant, but that didn’t last. Predictably, as supplies ran out, there were fights over the last remaining resources, namely water.
This is a scenario that repeats itself over and over again. It doesn’t matter what the “emergency” is – flooding, severe storms, earthquake or prolonged political unrest – within a few hours virtually anything of worth – especially food – will be gone. What isn’t bought will be looted and stolen, and people will fight over the last remaining scraps. Some of those fights will turn deadly.
And since there is an emergency going on, the authorities – police mostly, but also National Guard troops – will be busy doing other things like keeping escape routes open and ensuring that government agencies and functionaries are served and protected. Small, isolated incidents, though they may turn deadly, won’t get their attention, at least initially.
It is absolutely stunning to see people so utterly unprepared, mostly because they have misguided faith in a system that will most assuredly fail them.
For example, most people don’t know that grocery stores don’t keep much of a supply on hand; they stock for the here-and-now sale. They don’t stock up long-term on much of anything, especially food items, because they want to sell the freshest stock.
Don’t wait to plan
As for public servants and government agencies, there are never enough of these individuals to go around. Cities and state governments do not staff daily for disasters; they staff for day-to-day operations, when things are “normal.” They may call in extra staff for emergencies and disaster relief, but their numbers are still small in comparison to the total number of residents they serve.
The point about clogged highways is well-made also. Most people, by far, will rely on a standard vehicle to carry them to safety, and they’ll stick to the major highways. That’s why it’s always best to have a back-up transportation plan and a choice of routes – and a place to go to ahead of time. It may take a few extra hours using less-traveled roads on a motorbike or scooter to reach your final destination, but that’s better than being stuck out in the open with no way to move at all on a major highway, where just about anything could happen.
Food shortages, not enough emergency personnel, lack of advance planning and an inability to travel are some of the most common problems everyone faces when disaster strikes. As Hurricane Matthew reminds us again, the time to plan your escape and survival is before disaster strikes.