Hurricane Season: Those Most At Risk Always Least Prepared

Hurricane season is here and we could have a heavy season which brings up the perennial question of why people in cities are always out of food and water two days after a storm while many country folk are good for weeks.

It boils down to a combination of convenience and good old fashioned human short-sightedness, the same sort of foolishness which leads people to live at the foot of Mt. Vesuvius despite being next door to such horrendous object lessons as Herculaneum and Pompeii, or rebuild homes on sand dunes, or live below a big dam.

And there are some other disasters on the horizon which could cripple cities, even countries for months or years, disasters which would overwhelm every government and which you can’t really prepare for, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare for minor disasters.

See my recent article on the the threat to the electric grid from solar storms and coronal mass ejections in the August Perihelion Science Fiction Magazine to learn about a likely threat.

This year NOAA’s Hurricane forecast says to expect a bad season for the Atlantic with up to 19 named storms.

13 to 19 named storms (top winds of 39 mph or higher), including 6 to 9 hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher), of which 3 to 5 could be major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of at least 111 mph)

These ranges are above the 30-year seasonal averages of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

So like clockwork, FEMA has issued the annual warning and appeal for people to prepare.

An emergency supply kit is the minimum for any household: Water – one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both Flashlight and extra batteries First aid kit Whistle to signal for help Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter in place. Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities

Manual can opener for food Local maps Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger A paper map (the internet may be down)

I’ve spent decades as an emergency management coordinator but it doesn’t take such training to see the problem, you know what I am talking about because you see it every year, when a storm threatens people storm hardware and grocery stores for batteries and food, often food which needs to be cooked or refrigerated so it will be useless anyway.

That speaks volumes about how badly prepared most people are – they don’t own a flashlight, five cans of hash or ravioli, or a few large soda bottles.

I’ve lived in a big city, or atleast Boston, for more than a decade but mostly I’ve lived out in the country and when a storm threatens us outside the cities there is only a minor rush for food and supplies because almost everyone has several week’s supply of food if only because we work and live far enough from the nearest store that it doesn’t make sense to shop more than once a week.

I cook 99% of our meals and therefore have what used to be common, a larder with lots of different kinds of food in it so, even without any “disaster” planning, I already have food of some sort that would last us a month. I also have heat which doesn’t depend on electricity and a generator so I have electricity even if the power lines are down.

Of course apartment dwellers can’t prepare that thoroughly, but they can at a minimum have a dozen cans of food and a few jugs of water stored someplace.

I’m not at all unusual, even my poorest neighbors could usually go a week without needing emergency assistance and then their neighbors would help if necessary.

But take a city like New York. There is food everywhere and many people who live in the city are so accustomed to this that they shop every day. That’s terrific until something goes wrong because not only will the corner store sell out of everything in an hour, the regional warehouses only contain one or two days supply for the city.

Look at it logically, the way virtually no one in a city ever does. You have big storms or power outages every so often but you don’t have a week’s supply of canned food under your bed with a stack of paper plates, plastic utensils, two can openers, and a flashlight. Yet you know that in an emergency the streets will be impassible, the power will be out, water may stop running, and no supplies will be getting through for days or even weeks.

Is it any wonder FEMA has to issue warnings every year to stock up with emergency supplies? Or is the wonder that no one ever believes it can happen to them and that big brother will always take care of them.

I know otherwise perfectly sane people who have power outages every year but don’t invest in a standby generator. Some are my in-laws and quite elderly but while they wouldn’t (and don’t) blink at the thought of spending an extra $3 or $4 thousand adding special paint, wheels, and sound systems to their $50k car, they complain to us every year about the power being out and having to suffer in the cold and dark rather than spend $3000 for a standby generator they need every winter.

One of my editors (not at Newsblaze) knew his street in the suburbs was going to be torn up and repaved but when his car was blocked a week longer than expected he ran out of food. Because he lived in New York City for decades he still shopped for food or ordered in every day or two.

This is the root of a basic conflict between city and country folk and one which also drives a large portion of Tea Party members – people who plan ahead are reluctant to keep paying taxes assisting people who never prepare for inevitable disasters. People in the city depend so much on big brother to care for them that the vast majority NEVER prepare.

This is not only extremely short-sighted since they will inevitably suffer, if only in increased anxiety, it is also anti-social in the extreme because in every disaster first responders die rescuing people who should have been able to take care of themselves for a few days.

There are enough elderly or disabled people to overwhelm emergency services, they shouldn’t be burdened with able bodied citizens who simply refuse to care for themselves with a little planning and basic preparedness.