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Friday, September 23, 2005

Stay free--Stay out of the Superdome

Over at Enjoy Every Sandwich Kirsten is posting emergency preparedness entries. In her latest entry, Risk and Emergency Preparedness Part 2, Kirsten shares her own personal risk assessment, and some wonderful links, to help you along in starting your own assessment. Taking some time to now to evaluate what your greatest emergency risks are will help you concentrate your time and money on what is most essential for your survival in an emergency situation. If you’ve already begun emergency preparations for you and your family, risk evaluation will help you focus and propel you forward in your plans, so you can be as prepared as possible.

In my opinion, one of the essential parts of risk assessment is to come to terms with the fact that as mortal people, we can’t be prepared for every possible emergency. We aren’t omniscient beings, and as such we can’t see into the future. So, with that being said, each of us who want to be free has a responsibility to prepare ourselves to be self-sufficient in an emergency. You have to start somewhere; it won’t be perfect—accept that and let go of procrastination. You’ll never have enough time, money, space or ability to do it all. Get over it and get moving; it’s okay to not be perfect.

Where I live in Western Washington, the greatest emergency scenarios we will likely face are large earthquakes. In the September 18th edition of the Sunday Seattle Times/PI, they continued their coverage of local disaster preparedness. The latest installment lays out why we can’t rely on any government to secure our safety. In the article, Is Seattle Really Ready?, it is revealed that even though earthquakes represent the largest hazard our region faces, the Department of Homeland Security has gifted Seattle, in the past five years, with seven times more of our money for terrorism preparations than it has for seismic retrofitting since 1990. According to the handy-dandy chart accompanying the real-time article, the hard numbers are $5,716,456 for seismic retrofitting over 15 years, versus $40,949,684 for terrorism preparations over five years.

Because of the so-called generosity of the feds, Seattle boasts a waterfront warning siren that detects radiological dust, but the preparedness strategy of placing four trailers full of cots, radios and water for thousands of residents in locations around the city hasn’t been executed. And even when the trailers are placed at the slotted city maintenance yards and depots, the six community centers designated as gathering spots in an emergency are not in the immediate area where the supply trailers will be housed. In addition, these six centers are supposed to be equipped with diesel generators, but according to the article, only two have them at this time. The others are supposed to receive generators “in coming weeks.” What does that mean? Well, to me that means they’ll get them, maybe.

Since earthquakes are assessed as the greatest threat Seattle faces, this arrangement of supplies does not make sense at all. After a disastrous earthquake, streets will be snarled at best, impassable at worst. Those who make it to the community centers will be shit out of luck, because the likelihood the trailers, if they ever get filled and settled in the first place, will not be able to be transported to the centers when they’re needed. In addition, since space is the issue used to excuse this ding-dong plan in the first place, where in the hell will these trailers go in an emergency, when the centers are flooded with hundreds, if not thousands, of people?

To stay within the parameters of the fedgov grant monies and yet have tools in place that are versatile, cities like Seattle have to get creative with their expenditures. Seattle’s Public Utilities used Homeland Security money to develop a system to deliver 612,000 gallons of drinking water daily to citizens in the event that water is contaminated or disrupted. That plan is indeed versatile. It’s a step toward being self-sufficient, as a city, but considering that it’s standard to plan for a gallon a day per person, in an emergency, 612,000 gallons isn’t going to go far. According to MSN Encarta, Seattle’s estimated population was 569,101 in 2003. If the Public Utilties’ plan includes any of the Seattle Metropolitan area, the estimated population swells to 3,142,000. In other words, don’t plan on water coming out of your tap in a catastrophic emergency. Start putting away water, planning for a gallon, per person per day.

As we’ve witnessed in the response to Hurricane Katrina, FEMA has issues. Paternal figure, the Department of Homeland Security, appears to be bitch-slapping FEMA out of service by limiting its role to response and recovery. Preparedness issues will handled by a newly created department, according to a statement made by Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff, back in July. Also, if you take a look at the current protocol cities are supposed to follow in the wake of an emergency (chart presented, for your reading pleasure, in the Seattle Times article), it’s a game of Pass the Hot Potato. I counted ten steps from the disaster stage to emergency-response teams actually entering the picture in a major, bad situation. For our sakes, we need to pull ourselves out of this equation, because personal survival plans will need to be implemented immediately after a disaster. We have seen, in recent weeks, how sitting back and waiting for evacuation help is hazardous to your health and well-being.

Take time now to assess your own emergency risks. Read up on emergency prep planning. Besides the Seattle Time special report (which is an excellent starting tool), Kirsten’s outstanding links can help propel you forward in taking charge of your own personal freedom. The goal is to keep out of the fedgov Superdome. Do something today to ensure the realization of this goal.


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