We can’t deny that there has been an increase in extreme weather events. We have recently seen the suffering in Texas and the enormous impact of Winter Storm Uri across the US. The health and economic impacts of climate change have now become all too obvious and beyond debate.
Planning can help to address many of these growing concerns about our changing climate. While the government plays a role in assisting communities after impact, there are many steps that we can take for ourselves to limit the impact on our family and community.
At DisasterDoc, we believe that every household (family or individual) should have a disaster plan.
Planning can be the difference between life and death in certain circumstances. At a minimum, having a plan will limit these events’ overall impact on your life and allow you to navigate bad situations with greater ease.
How do we plan? Our initial step is to perform a basic “hazard analysis.” Hazards are the dangerous things that can hurt us (e.g., storms, floods, earthquakes, COVID).
Nearly anyone can perform a hazard analysis for climate-related disasters. It involves identifying the most likely extreme weather events that you may encounter in your community.
For example, St. Petersburg, Florida families would identify hazards like flooding, hurricanes, and extreme heat as “likely.” Tornados and hard freezes would fit into the “unlikely” events but need to be part of the planning process. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and snow avalanches would be considered unlikely ever to occur.
Identifying hazards will also set a basic framework for the plan itself. Each adverse weather event will have associated health hazards that will require advance planning. For example, extreme cold often has much more impact upon water availability than extreme heat. However, both may result in power grid failures that may threaten our homes’ safety as a shelter. Both are especially dangerous for our elderly friends and family. And both require that we have suitable shelter to keep you away from the hazard.
Once we have identified hazards in our community, it is time to address our needs.
Addressing needs includes planning for the “BIG 4” needs: food, water, shelter, and outside assistance (e.g. medical, social, logistical, and humanitarian support). It also requires stocking up on additional personal items like flashlights, batteries, medications, non-cook foods, appropriate clothing, and hygiene items. The Sphere standards for humanitarian relief can also give us a good handle on what (and how much) we will actually need for good health. We can plan on having enough in advance of any disaster.
We have previously discussed Why you can’t rely on rescue and how many times, once the event has begun, that we are on our own for emergency aid until the event passes. A rescue crew will have a lot on their plate to address critical situations. Often, teams may not be able to navigate through areas, leaving us waiting until further aid can reach us.
Therefore, it is crucial to account for your own needs before the event occurs.
You can’t go and scoop up a meal while the floodwaters are sweeping through town. (Luckily enough, you followed this blog and knew you would need more food options for the upcoming storm and probably obtained extra propane tanks to cook using your grill – like camping).
Here at DisasterDoc, we like to say that the single most effective thing that anyone can do right now to prevent themselves from being killed in a disaster is to go camping! You can check this out in our blog: When camping saves lives.
This preparation leads to the next key aspect of planning – empowerment for yourself and your family.
Preparation on your end will extend to other members of the family. Mothers and fathers who prepare with their families will have kids educated on what to do in emergencies and enjoy inclusion in a planning process. Knowledge is power.
A couple planning together will both be on the same page once the event makes an impact. Even the individual living alone can feel more confident of weathering the storm, knowing that they have the necessary supplies and capability to fend for themselves if they need to after the hazard passes.
This resilience will also play into many people’s heartfelt desire to care for their neighbors and to not rely on “outsiders” to come in and “save the day.” We all hold the desire to succeed and flourish, so why not be the prosperous and thriving home in the community (despite that storm’s path adjusting to pass right over the top of you).
A key point to stress is that while making a plan is important, it is MUCH more important to USE the plan for its intended purpose.
It does you no good to create a family plan and then not do your part to ensure adherence to the plan. If the storm hits, and you didn’t actually stock up on water before, that “paper plan” won’t quench your thirst by any means!
Family-centric planning efforts can also expand to a more “community-based” approach as well. We at DisasterDoc appreciate the value of community planning, and we recommend you check it out in our previous blog.
Community-wide planning allows for a broader adherence to the planning efforts. This general adherence means that, ideally, the entire community would organize to identify everyone’s needs in case of adverse weather events.
For example, if your water stores spring a leak and you’re now without water, your neighbor (that you know personally because you plan with them) will be able to assist in what way they can. Knowing a neighbor who has a generator to keep food cold may help you extend your food stores until crews can clear that tree to allow you to drive to the store.
It gives you an extra lifeline and encourages accountability among all members of the community. It’s hard to be “that guy” who doesn’t stick to the plan (and never has enough supplies) when the whole neighborhood has been putting effort into their plan adherence.
Overall, planning holds incredible value for individuals, families, and communities. Building the knowledge, skills, and “expertise” to face the most likely disaster threats will also give you the confidence to navigate otherwise difficult situations.