Survival may depend on how well we are prepared, but what will help the most?

Joplin Hospital

Any event at the level of a disaster or emergency should not catch you unprepared.  A comfortable level of preparedness varies with each individual.  Many sources of helpful information are easily found.  Survival may depend on how well we are prepared, but what will help the most?

This year, 2011, in weather records is the most disaster prone year so far.  An article in Stateline says, "Through the third week of September, Obama had issued 84 federal disaster declarations at the request of governors.  That is more declarations than in any year since the score was first kept six decades ago.  And there are still three months left in 2011."

FEMA defines emergency as “any incident, whether natural or manmade, that requires responsive action to protect life or property.  An emergency is any occasion or instance for which, in the determination of the President, federal assistance is needed to supplement state and local efforts and capabilities to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in any part of the United States.”

FEMA also publishes basic guidelines for individual preparedness that can easily be customized for a minimal starting place at which you can respond if necessary.

Joplin, Missouri

Natural disasters are occurring more frequently and with great intensity.  We have been warned of certain and impending disasters such as severe earthquakes centered near the New Madrid and San Andreas fault lines.  Hurricanes are yearly threats to the U.S. and can be extremely destructive.  Tornadoes and floods cause deaths and millions of dollars in damage yearly.

Joplin Tornado

Terrorism continues to be a real threat which should not be ignored.  Maintain perspective with the memory of the Twin Towers, Ft. Hood, the NYC Federal building, or the USS Cole just to name a few.  Active cells are very much alive in this country.

A Salvation Army Story, Carlson

   This book by Linda Carlson Johnson may be purchased at for $2.50.

Survival is subject to things outside our control.  Achieving a reasonable state of preparedness is first a matter of deciding to keep a continual awareness of the need.  From there, much can be accomplished with one effective approach.  Become able to respond to natural or biological disasters or terrorist attacks or criminal behavior by being involved as a volunteer.  You will be among the most informed.  Knowledge is the basis for all your preparation and will enable you to organize efficiently.

Joplin Rescue

A good place to start evaluating where you can participate and best prepare for emergencies is to find out how your local organizations coordinate to respond to disasters.  Their plans will include relief and recovery as well.   In metros to small towns, private organizations, volunteer fire departments and city and county law enforcement agencies among many, have well-organized systems of emergency preparation.   Examples of well-known, highly effective disaster relief organizations are the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, The Salvation Army and the American Red Cross

These organizations work in harmony for the needs of victims and workers. Government agencies rely on them and they can function without federal and state tax dollars.  Websites of these organizations provide detailed information that will help you build a plan according to typical threats to your area.  All have opportunities for you to volunteer your abilities.  Investigate and determine in what ways  being involved will benefit others and you.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Red Cross Disaster Relief

You may decide to take courses and become a trained and credentialed volunteer ready to assist should a disaster occur, particularly in your surrounding areas.  If you are trained, you will no doubt be personally prepared and your family as well.  An important part of your organizing involves a communication plan with those close to you.  In addition, there may be some you know who are not able to manage at all, such as the elderly or handicapped.  Since we usually don’t have much warning as to the exact nature of a situation, cover the basics and stay informed and updated.  Agencies and organizations are always updating new information. 

When a disaster occurs, it is first handled at the most local level and broadens depending on the severity of the event.  In large events and in any case where federal funds are desired, the local teams can expand to include FEMA involvement.  In all cases, every agency and private organization that is involved is expected to follow NICS (National Incident Command System) guidelines.  There is a chain of authority under an “Incident Commander.”  Small events may involve only local groups and a local commander.

When a threat is specifically identified, it may seem to be overplayed by television media; however, we live in an age of 24-hour cable news networks.  If the coverage is perceived as too hyped, one might erroneously compensate with under reaction.  Realistically, one should already have planned ahead in a minimal practical way of stocking up on some basics.  Stores do occasionally have empty shelves.  In some areas, a winter storm forecast with snow or ice creates a social event in every grocery store.  Within a day or two, many of the shelves are bare.   Having a plan and some essential items in place is really very simple and could actually save money.   Stock up if possible.  If evacuation or escape is necessary, you'll be glad you prepared that 72-hour pack.  One plan will not work for every event.  That is why communication and continual alertness is essential.

Whether or not you choose to present as a volunteer, take advantage of the excellent sources of helpful information that will enable you to be ready for any emergency.  At the very least, have a plan and a pack.  Stay informed and expand your readiness as you are able, but remember.  We cannot control nature or the evils of this world.  Be inwardly and spiritually prepared as well.  Consider beyond these in what ways you can be a part of any disaster response to help your family and neighbors and friends.  Rest in the confidence that you remain alert with a basic readiness.