The east coast earthquake(s) are just the latest example of how unprepared we are for an emergency or major disaster.
Whether we’re talking about earthquakes, snow storms, hurricanes, floods, electrical outages or terrorist attacks, government officials, as well as individuals, have demonstrated time and again that we have a psychological inability to cope with high stress situations, a lack of foresight to stock emergency reserves, and have failed to prepare effective emergency response plans.
Though we hardly felt any movement here in the city of New York as a result of the earthquake, panic seemed to overtake a lot of people, as indicated by various news programs and social networking sites.
A single tremor was enough to cause mass confusion, building evacuations and cell phone service outages across the city.
So, I ask, are we ready for this possibility [Hurricane Irene], New York?
Consider: This region, more than any other, relies on electrical power. From high rise apartment buildings, to business computers, to the subway system, a massive power outage caused by a hurricane will have a significant impact on people’s lives.
Imagine if you were sick or paralyzed, and stuck on a building’s 35th floor without elevator service for days. Or, simply picture the isolation caused by television and cell phone outages. Ask yourself, where are your flashlights? Your radio? How will you keep up to date with important emergency information if the storm knocks out electrical services?
In order to prepare for this hurricane, ultimately we have to think not of the earthquake, which caused no lasting damage, but rather everything that went wrong during this past winter’s big snowstorm.
People were unable to leave their apartments, and emergency buildings were essentially unable to move around on the streets. We were woefully under-prepared, and most city workers had to play catch up to fix the significant problems that resulted from the storm.
Source: Fox News [Hat tip Bill]
Once cell phone service went out following high volumes of calls across the eastern seaboard, local police, fire and medical response was effectively shut down. Add congestion and confusion on roadways and you have a recipe for disaster.
The earthquakes this week were minor events in terms of severity and damage. But consider what might happen in a prolonged regional-disaster. Hurricane Katrina was such an incident, albeit still a short-term event, and luckily the rest of the country was unaffected. Emergency response took a week or more in some instances, and it reportedly took some three days to get bottled water into New Orleans. Bottled Water! And this is with a completely intact national infrastructure around the disaster zone.
Images of the looting, violence, preventable deaths and confiscatory martial law sweeps were beamed to millions of Americans. No one was paying attention, save a few individuals willing to think outside the box of complaceny and the status quo.
We realize the government has spent billions of our tax dollars making preparations. But how that money has been directed and managed is anybody’s guess. When it comes down to it, whatever preparations are being made by emergency preparedness experts at DHS, FEMA and other agencies, they will likely not benefit you all that much. If the time ever came that the infrastructure of the entire United States, not just an isolated region, experienced a far-from-equilibrium event we need to assume help is not coming. No ambulances. No police. No grocery delivery trucks. And no electricians to fix the power.
It’s going to be up to you.