From floods of “biblical proportions” to wildfires that wreak havoc, Colorado has had its fair share of natural disasters. As a mid-Western gal, I am no stranger to what life in Tornado Alley truly means. I can recall many times when the sirens started to blare and echo on a warm spring day and we had to immediately implement our family’s action plan. That plan always included grabbing gallons of water, blankets, flashlights, battery-operated radio and cramming my family under the stairs of our townhouse. At present, I like to consider myself prepared for just about anything ranging from natural disasters to man-made terrorism or cyber-attack. Beyond the basic items that a disaster supply kit may include, it is important to consider:
- How you will get to a safe place?
- How you will contact your family members?
- How you will get back together?
- What you will do in different situations?1
For a complete list of suggested supplies, refer to: http://www.ready.gov/document/family-supply-list.
Food for thought: How would you rate your own personal preparedness for a natural emergency/disaster? What about a catastrophe that was caused by man?
Preparedness is vitally important on multiple levels. The Federal Emergency Management System (FEMA) recommends that individuals be able to fend for themselves for at least 72 hours, which is typically the minimum amount of time it will take for any kind of government response in a disaster. Remember, FEMA is not a first responder. Lessons from disasters like Hurricane Katrina, for example, proved that we are not capable of preventing or anticipating all disasters, so we should prepare and practice for them. September 2013’s flooding in Colorado is another prime example, as nobody anticipated the state’s historical rainfall to lead to the destruction that it ultimately caused. Hindsight is always 20/20 and the lessons that follow emergencies are a sobering reminder that preparation (even in small capacities) is critically important.
Further, knowing where to go and what critical functions need to be restored can provide confidence to you and your family when responding to a disaster. Identifying potential threats, assessing their potential impact, assigning priorities, and developing planned responses are the basic principles of sound planning2.
Many of us, me included, often take electricity, running water, easy access to food, and basic infrastructure for granted…what would happen if we were stripped of our basic needs? A movie that I recommend in my Homeland Security course called American Blackout, explores that very scenario via a fictional cyberattack.
National Geographic’s American Blackout, “imagines the story of a national power failure in the United States caused by a cyberattack — told in real time, over 10 days, by those who kept filming on cameras and phones. You’ll learn what it means to be absolutely powerless. Gritty, visceral and totally immersive, see what it might take to survive from day one, and who would be left standing when the lights come back on”3.
If you can get past the wobbly and “live-action-like” cinematography, then American Blackout can be a very thought-provoking film about emergency preparedness.
While the documentary is intended to serve as a means to make one consider the worst case scenarios of man-made disasters, the moral of the story is that we should be prepared in some capacity. If you are reading this and do not have an action plan or a disaster preparedness kit, I recommend the following resources that can help you get started:
If you have an instinct to get involved when a disaster hits, I encourage you to seek opportunities that could allow you to use your skill set. The Red Cross has Disaster Teams and provides training, and if you are interested, you can register here: http://www.redcross.org/support/get-involved. You may also consider contacting local churches and ministries, non-profits, etc. that may be looking for qualified volunteers who can be ready and prepared in the event of a natural disaster.
1N.A. (August 6, 2014). Prepare My Family For Disaster. Retrieved from http://www.dhs.gov/how-do-i/prepare-my-family-disaster
2N.A. (2015). Lessons Learned From Hurricane Katrina: Preparing Your Institution for a Catastrophic Event. FFIEC. Retrieved from https://www.ffiec.gov/katrina_lessons.htm
3American Blackout. (2015). Retrieved from http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/american-blackout/