With June 1st fast approaching, our thoughts here in Florida head toward the 2011 Hurricane Season. While reviewing storm forcast predicitions maybe useful, the preparedness discussion is more impactful. The key to real preparedness is having a viable plan that is laid out, in advance. For me, this is never an issue, as a fair number of people that know me will state that I’m a planner. My fear is for my neighbors and what five consecutive seasons of little to no storm action has done to their level of preparedness.
In reviewing the 2011 hurricane predictions, Emily Holbrook discusses predictions and probabilities in her article, 2011 Hurricane Predicitons, from the Risk Management Monitor. Her information contains a great deal of data from the Colorado State University team of Dr. William Gray and Phil Klotzbach who issue these predictions each year. More importantly, Emily’s discussion includes important points from Dr. Gray that don’t focus on the actual predictions, but rather on the statistical probabilities of tropical storm and hurricane activity in our region. These thoughts and the CSU team’s predictions are a good start to the discussion on preparedness.
Thinking about preparedness specifically, I reflect on an article initially found in the Washington Post on May 18, 2008. Written by John D. Solomon, the article entitled It’s an Emergency - We’re Not Prepared focuses on a “lack of preparedness” and how even the September 11, 2001 attacks have not spurred most of us into preparing for emergencies. Its important to point out, these emergencies don’t just include a terrorist attack, but more probable scenarios like a fire, disease pandemic (think, a very ugly strain of the Flu) or a natural disaster (think, hurricane, tornado, earthquake, etc…). Any of these issues have the potential for serious impact on you, your family, your business and your community. The severe weather and tornadoes across Alabama, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma over the past few weeks have been a painful reminder of that impact.
Granted, I live in Florida and for those of us that were around in 2004 & 2005, we have a memory of Hurricanes Charlie, Francis, Jeanne, Ivan & Wilma. However, unless we were DIRECTLY affected, the urgency to plan & prepare for a disastrous situation lessens which each passing day. We’ve breathed sighs of relief in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 when our state was not affected in any meaningful way by tropical storms. With the past five seasons relatively calm, how many have an active hurricane or disaster plan in place? How many of have worked out what to do if they were displaced from their home? How many have chosen alternate meeting sites for family and/or business in case of catastrophe near or around their home? Remember, we shouldn’t expect our wonderful electronic gadgetry – smart phones, mobile phones to work flawlessly in the aftermath of a storm. I experienced that first hand working through the aftermaths of Hurricanes Charlie, Francis and Jeanne.
Discussing these issues on a national scale, Mr. Solmon quotes 9/11 Commission Chairman Thomas H. Kean when he says:
- “The weakest part of our homeland security plan is the citizen… Addressing that is very, very important”.
The problem is in the fact that too many citizens rely on a government agency to help them in the aftermath of a disaster…and too often, that help doesn’t come fast nor is it a complete solution by any means. As Mr. Solomon correctly points out, history has shown that individuals will rise to the occasion in an emergency. At the same time, offering them training, information, support & encouragement to prepare IN ADVANCE means they’ll be in the best position to help not only their community — but their family and THEMSELVES. Given this, Mr. Solomon points out “10 suggestions for achieving a more prepared public”.
10 Suggestions — for all leaders & citizens — for achieving a more prepared public (John D. Solomon):
–Make public preparedness a priority, or it won’t happen: “…of 300 people asked, only 9 had family plans, in a roomful of first responders…”
–Make preparedness part of 21st century citizenship: “…being prepared may be the most significant contribution many citizens can make…”
–Don’t laugh at Duck & Cover: “…we need to get back the preparedness ethic from our past…”
–Knowledge is power: “…public education could help mitigate the impact of a catastrophic disaster, according to many emergency officials…”
–We should tell the children: …”going through kids makes it more likely that adults will follow, as preparedness may take a generation to take hold…”
–Try the carrot and the stick: “…the government uses the bottom line ($) when it wants to influence behavior…”
–Bring in business to help make the sale: “…it’s time to engage the private sector in advancing civilian preparedness…”
–Use 21st century technology to prepare for 21st century emergencies: “…make Americans more aware of capabilities and how to use them…”
–Everyone should learn the drill: “…how will you get information and communicate with YOUR family?…”
–Create a National Preparedness Day: “…briefing citizens, conducting drills, filling emergency kits are just some of the activities…”
For Floridians, the time to prepare for the devastation a hurricane can supply is NOT when a Hurricane Watch is issued. When the watch is issued, that is the time to put your plan into action, both for your business and your family. The time to start planning and prepare detailed plans is now: when the seas are calm, the weather is pleasant and the lines at the local home improvement store are short.
I am a huge beleiver in personal responsibility, especially when it comes to preparedness activities. In short order, I’ll be discussing plans and key resources for hurricane season planning and personal – family and business preparedness. As Paul Harvey was fond of saying, “stand by for news!”