Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Know Thy Neighbor

It has been awhile since I posted in this blog, I thought maybe I had talked it out; but after the Philippines double disaster (Earthquake followed by a super Typhoon) I started to think more about total disaster.  What would I really do if things were completely destroyed to the point that we could not get a functioning city back in weeks.  

A lot of the stories coming out of the Philippines are about neighbor helping neighbor, it made me think would that happen here?  And then I saw this article and thought "maybe not"  "Seattle is one of the loneliest cities".  

If we won't even talk to each other in the market/bar/public transit, how will you fare in a disaster, having to introduce yourself to your neighbor you have lived next to for years to ask for help.  Do you know if your neighbor(s) have health concerns? In firmed? Have latch key kids? 
Do your neighbors know about you?  
A book that explores that questions is Heat Wave by Eric Klinenberg where he delves into the high rate of deaths in a massive heatwave in Chicago in 1995 that killed over 700 people. Many died alone because they didn't have family or know anyone who would check on them.  A sad story of people alone.  So again I ask do you know your neighbors? Would someone check on you in a heatwave or power outage?

And just one more story Being sociable could save your life in a disaster

Make it a point this holiday season to meet your neighbors (its a great excuse) they may look at you like you want something, but give it a shot, say hi, lend a hand. Don't do nothing, what if your neighbor is a doctor or better yet  prepper.

Happy Holiday
Thanks for reading

Disaster Dave

Saturday, July 13, 2013

You can't prepare for everything?

That's the bad news; the good news is you don't have to.  I recently visited an area that suffered a strike by a tornado to do a damage assessment for ShelterBox and thought to myself how do I equate what happened here to my home (Seattle)?

In the strictest sense I can't; we don't have tornadoes, so thats one thing I don't need to prepare for. I don't need a safe room in my home or a tornado shelter. But what do I need? Are there things from a tornado area that could apply to me and my family? And what doesn't?

Well first having a plan. Ask yourself the "what ifs"? Where to start? Start small, don't go for the end of the world scenario, you'll freeze.
So for me in Seattle an easy start is a wind storm that knocks out power; something we are susceptible too.  So if the power goes out in the winter how long can we stay in our place?

Well for us a good bit, we have a gas fire place and gas stove.  So will my gas fire place light without electricity?  Yup, I turned off the power to my place and tried to turn it on and TADA, it worked. Same with the stove and oven.  So that's two check marks Heat & Cooking.  But what don't I have?  Well my hot water is electric, so that's a problem. 
Solutions = Shower at work? The YMCA?
What about the food in my refrigerator?  Yes that will be a problem if the power is out more than a few hours.  Well our wind storms are in the winter, so I can go outside with a cooler for a while, but eventually that will fail.

So today while its sunny, pick one disaster and talk it through with your family.
Make a Plan.

The picture is one I took in Oklahoma of the remains of someones home.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Cookies never suck

The title stems from a conversation I had a couple of years ago with like-minded Emergency Managers from around the world enrolled in the Emergency Management Academy. An endeavor that had me read a large volume of emergency management books over the course of a year, along with being involved in great conversations weekly with my fellow Fellows.

The gist of the conversation was appreciation of the people running the disaster response and recovery.  Not the first responders (who you should thank) but the Emergency Management Team behind the scenes coordinating the response, who almost never get thanked in a public way.  So as you go into your next disaster; regardless of whether it is a tornado, hurricane, quake or mass shooting remember there is a man or woman behind the curtain.  They do everything from coordinating the response, to helping move things along in the recovery phase.  And if they did everything right your disaster experience was probably better than it would have been without their daily planning.

So search out the location of your local Emergency management office, bake some cookies and deliver them to the EOC with your thanks.  You will make some tired emergency managers day, because cookies never suck.


Saturday, March 30, 2013

What does the Vulnerable Population look like?

It is important to understand that to be young or old, a woman or a person with a disability or HIV does not, of itself, make a person vulnerable or at increased risk. Rather, it is the interplay of factors that does so... (The Sphere Project- Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response)
I find I am often in conversations about how to serve people after a disaster and I hear planners talk about vulnerable populations; I wonder through what lens they are quantifying that population?
In most cases it is often new immigrants, people with obvious disabilities and the poor. While those are the usual suspects as the movie line goes, I believe it is important realize being from one of those categories is not what makes you vulnerable, it is the addition (or subtraction) of something.
Our daily lives are fairly comfortable by most means in the first world, but when something happens like Sandy, it quickly can become a 3rd world working area.  With the subtraction of electricity, and easy access to the grocer, doctor and other support systems we depend on, someone who isn't in our plan as a vulnerable Population can quickly become vulnerable. 
As you look at your community whether you are a Emergency Manager, a CERT leader, an MRC member or ant neighborhood program, look deeper than the pre identified "Vulnerable Pop" look at the family with a single parent, look at the older couple down the street who walk their dog, and seem to get along pretty well for their age, look at the new comer who just moved here and doesn't have connections to the community yet. 

Look at the UN definition above and as you view your population through that lens ask yourself " If that person (family) lost one of the following - power for a week, or access to the grocery store, drug store, or clean water or anything we take for granted would they become vulnerable?"  If the answer is yes, you have some more planning and teaching to do.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

New Ideas in preparedness from New York

 Recently in a New York online magazine I came across this article:

The article is about a small survey of people to see what they thought should be done, some of the ideas are the things we talk about in Emergency Management, but the interesting suggestions to me were the ones YOU can do.
  • Secure out/indoor pulley systems to deliver food, water and medicine to residents living in the top floors of tall buildings in lower Manhattan.
  • Offer emergency training in Russian in Coney Island.
  • Install rainwater harvest systems in Red Hook.
  • Establish bike "brigades" that can deliver supplies to areas where roads have been washed out during and after an emergency. (Portland, Oregon, is already researching how best to incorporate cargo bikes into its disaster preparedness plans.)
  • Distribute solar-powered water heaters after an emergency.
  • Educate youth about extreme weather events and vulnerability.
  • Create "buddy" programs to account for everyone in an apartment building during and after an emergency.
Having a block & Tackle to move things to higher floors is a very good idea for moving water since water weighs in at 8 pounds per gallon.
And of course building unity within your building or neighborhood is a must, so we can check on each other and make sure everyone is okay.

Lets continue to take responsibility and prepare where we can.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

This one is for practitioners

Its 2013, and we (the royal we) have been preaching, "get prepared" for a decade or longer. 3 Days- 3 Ways or RESOLVE TO BE READY IN 2013 and other preparedness messages.

I don't know if its me or not but they aren't getting it. We have called upon the ghost of Katrina, Joplin and other disasters to no avail.  So maybe its time to try something different!

Many of you are enlightened and know that the research is showing that scary pictures don't work. Lets try reason and explanations.  Lets try explaining what is/could happen when a disaster strikes.
Lets start with simple things-
·      Electricity, we throw a switch it comes on, if not we get a flashlight, everyone has a flashlight. Hey step one completed in the electricity column. 
·      What else doesn't work without electricity- gas pumps (imagine long lines, what a waste of time) always keep your car above 3/4 (or a half) - Check-mark
·      Food will spoil, don't buy a survival kit (unless you want one) every time you shop buy one extra can of Stew & crackers. Check-mark

Lets really think about how we can help people become more prepared without building a kit and work up to plans with some easy common methods.  How about a text per week that are preloaded on your reverse dial system with a tip every week.
Or an email.  We have to keep trying but as Albert Einstein said " doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity”.

I don't have all the answers and we are running out of Federal Money for research, so lets (the royal we again) try some new things, if you see results, write about it and get it out to the field; lets up our preparedness quota too.