Sunday, November 4, 2012

What we Need to Learn from the Superstorm

I've had some time to think over the past week, and since I am not seeing some of these issues addressed, I feel it is important to put this out there for my extremely limited audience. You never know when it will be your community that is affected by disaster. I certainly could never imagine a time when I would be searching through my list of Facebook friends to check on friends and family who were in the worst areas hit by this storm.

Facebook has been a great help through this, and I honestly think it could do more. If you and family members are on Facebook, I suggest setting up a family page on Facebook or a similar site, even a family blog page, where relatives can let each other know they are alright. I know we all still have family members who consider themselves Luddites, but that makes it all the more important that everyone has a way to communicate and find out who needs help. If you can't count on family coming together in a crisis, who can you? I had online friends who were worried about me, but no way to let them know I was alright. A family member could have posted a public message on my Facebook page to assure them I was fine but without power. 

In our age of abundant information, it is ridiculous that one storm can bring communication to a standstill, but that is what has happened. Even if you thought to charge your phone before the storm, there was no guarantee you had a signal after. Guess what, folks? Smartphones are only as smart as their connection. We can build towers in every backyard and that won't mean a thing if the power goes out and the towers are blown down. It's amazing how few people even have a battery operated radio today, they rely so much on their devices. I had a radio and, as I said in my last post, it was only as useful as the information being given. If the radio newscasters aren't being told what's going on, or they are busy telling me about this YouTube video that I can't see, this is not helpful. Most radios went back to business as usual by Thursday, even though many communities were still in the dark and had no clue when their power would return. Not knowing makes people feel forgotten. Feeling forgotten makes people angry.

We have all of these emergency broadcast system tests, but I have never actually heard it work in an actual emergency. Why? Even though I had no electricity, I still had a portable radio. No station directed me to where I could hear information. I had to search the dial to find that. Even with that, I mainly found information on New York City and nothing more local. Instead of ear-splitting tests, how about planning in advance? Send the community magnets they can stick on their refrigerator with designated local radio stations that will be responsible for giving emergency information. Local government should also have emergency preparation brochures ready to hand out, because people always forget what to do. From now on, I plan to write down or print out any phone numbers from utilities and local government in advance of the storm. We should all have those numbers in our wallet or purse, along with extra cash. My husband is very emergency conscious in this regard. He made sure the car had a full tank of gas and withdrew money in the event that the power went out. I was the one charging the mobile phones and making sure we had a stock of batteries, ice in the freezer, and non-perishable food. For us, the cell phone is for emergency only, we don't have an internet connection on them. That's important to remember. Don't use them until you need them. Your phone is of no use at all without a charge.

And if the weatherman says the storm will be historic, believe them. I would rather be ready for the worst and find out it was nothing. So many people in flood zones said they had nowhere to go and were afraid their house would be looted if they evacuated. You are all more important than your stuff! You can replace it. And if you leave before the storm you might even have time to grab those photos or that irreplaceable memento from grandma and bring it with you. Nothing can replace a lost life.


Julie said...

I am so thankful your family made it through okay. You have made some excellent points. We've been through several hurricanes over the years but Ivan was our wake up call. Even the radio towers were lost so there was zero info and it sure was scary not knowing. Good luck with the clean up and recovery, sometimes that is the worst part.

flmom said...

You bring up such good points. One thing about having cash on hand - it's good to get in that habit all the time if possible. When we had hurricanes Frances and Jeanne back in 2004, there was such a run on the banks that a limit on how much cash could be withdrawn was put in place (and it was not a large sum). With no electricity after the storms, people needing to buy supplies were in real trouble because debit cards, credit cards, and personal checks were not being accepted by stores. And you are so right about people feeling forgotten and how that makes people angry. We were without electricity for over two weeks after Frances. All our neighbors were back up and running within about 4 days, but our transformer blew so we were stuck waiting all that time without electricity for something that took all of 5 minutes (if that) to repair. Life went back to normal on the radio, tv stations, and all around us. None of our neighbors checked on us, offered us a couple of hours in their a/c to cool off, a quick shower (with hot water - we only had cold, stinky well water with our generator running). No one could say they didn't know we didn't have electricity as our generator could be heard many houses away in all directions.

Inner Elder said...

These are excellent suggestions. Never thought I'd admit that Facebook is good for something. Let us hope and pray we do not face another "Sandy" but if we do, I feel good knowing you are prepared. Love, Mom

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