A disaster is defined as a sudden event, such as an accident or a natural catastrophe, that causes great damage or loss of life. Disasters happen all the time. For example, in recent news:
- Hurricane Dorian devastates the Bahamas, before storming the east coast of the US. The death toll in the Bahamas is expected to be in the hundreds.
- SCBA divers, on a boat for a three-day diving excursion. 34 die in a fire in the waters near Santa Cruz Island, California.
- A gunman opens fire in Odessa, Texas, taking seven lives.
- Two months ago, on July 4, Ridgecrest, California experienced an earthquake registering 6.4 on the Richter scale. Of the 1,400 earthquakes that followed in the next few days, the most severe registered 7.1, which took one life in nearby Pahrump, Nevada.
Disasters happen all the time, whether the cause is natural or “unnatural.” You hear all the time that you need to be prepared, and you may be, but not everyone is. A study was recently released by the University of Michigan Medical Center, the results of which were published in this month’s Science Daily. They found that, of US residents ages 50 and older at least 75% have experienced a disaster, such as a tornado, hurricane or earthquake. And yet, of the 2,200 respondents:
- Less than 50% have signed up for free early warning notifications offered by their communities.
- Less than 33% have an emergency preparedness kit with food, medications and other essentials.
- Less than 25% that depend on health-care equipment have an emergency back-up power supply.
Even though some disasters are natural, the effects of disasters are manmade. The fact is that those who are prepared are far less likely to experience catastrophic effects than the unprepared. Preparation isn’t something mother nature does. It’s something we do.
September is the traditionally designated National Preparedness month. FEMA’s theme this year is to “be prepared, not scared.” How can you achieve that level of preparedness? How can you anticipate every possible bad thing that could ever go wrong? For example, you may have a few days warning to prepare for a hurricane, or you might have an hour or more to prepare for a tornado, but there as of yet, there is no reliable early warning system for earthquakes.
One method is to have a very good imagination. Play the “what if” game. Ask yourself “what if” there was a tornado warning right now? Where would you like your employees to go? How would you prepare for their safety? Once you have that figured out, ask the question again, only this time exchange the word “flood” for a tornado. Then move on to planning for an earthquake, wildfire, hurricane, tsunami, active shooter, cyberattack, power outage, or any other disaster you can think of.
Need help? There are some agencies that can help you with disaster planning. FEMA and the Red Cross both have emergency planning assistance on their websites. Links can be found to the right. Another resource is the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). They sponsor National Fire Prevention Week. This year’s theme, “Not every hero wears a cape” focuses on emergency evacuations. Their link is also to the right.
One very important safety tip is to take this game home. You only spend about one third of your life at work. The other two-thirds is spent at home, with family and friends. You can start imagining with them. We encourage parents to ask their children what to do in an emergency and listen to what they would say. Help them to understand how you would like them to evacuate when required, and to know when to shelter in place or hide. A child that is prepared is less likely to be scared, and more likely to be empowered to be safe with confidence.
And as that study suggests, review safety information and preparedness measures with seniors to make sure they know how to take care of themselves.
We can’t always prevent a disaster, but with preparedness, we can improve the outcome.
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