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Have You Planned For Unwelcome Visitors…Such As Hurricanes?

Summer and the month of September are now in our wake. I hope that you were able to make the most of them, get out on the water, and that your days were full of more joy than stress.

Unfortunately, I know for many of you that was not the case. These recent weeks have posed huge challenges for many, especially for those who experienced hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

Are you among those who are muttering “Good riddance” to these recent weeks that brought so much fear, pain, chaos and devastation to our shores? As I try to take in the scenes I see in the news – especially in Puerto Rico (also now in Mexico and Las Vegas) – I have no words to express how shaken and sad I feel. My heart goes out to all who were affected, especially those who have seemingly lost everything – but, hopefully not hope.

Once again, a bright spot is that post-hurricane, we see a generosity of spirit in how people come together to grieve, console, support and help each other, and start to rebuild. My gratitude goes out to those of you who are helping in big or small ways with what will be a lengthy process of recovery.

It’s important to know that even as these coastal and island communities are reeling from what has happened, the coming weeks still pose some risk of additional massive storms. We could see weather systems with the potential to become hurricanes, appear, build, and find their way toward the next available letter of the alphabet to claim a soon-to-be-infamous name. Caveat: I’m not a Meteorologist…

None of us should ever be complacent, not even after hurricane season comes to a close at the end of November. In coastal and non-coastal communities alike, winter storm season kicks off in November and can also be deadly. Remember Superstorm Sandy? We also often see communities suffer dire consequences during power outages due to massive wind, snow, and ice storms. In terms of preparedness planning, many of the details are the same for hurricanes and winter storms.

A positive outcome of this rapid-fire sequence of disasterous hurricanes is that it has raised awareness and focused attention on emergency preparedness, disaster planning and response, well beyond those areas directly affected by these hurricanes.

I am involved in disaster preparedness efforts here in my community. Our most likely hazard (a major earthquake) has no grounded presence on a calendar or tangible presence on weather radar. Still, planning for emergencies poses challenges for many here. People often tell me that they simply don’t have time to build a go kit (for an event that may not happen anytime soon), can’t find space to store extra water and provisions; or are unable to take action because of physical limitations, cost, or lack of other resources. Overwhelm, or not knowing where to start, also deters many from taking steps to prepare…although they believe it is important.

Most worrisome to me is that so many others seem to not fully realize WHY they need to prepare – that is, beyond having a purse/wallet with a few credit cards, perhaps a bottle of water or coffee, and a small backpack or overnight bag. They may have heard, but have not truly envisioned, what it might mean if our 911 system, first responders and city/county services are overwhelmed, water and electricity are unavailable, runways and roads are contorted, and the internet or ATM’s do not perform as usual. It could take days for relief organizations and supplies to arrive.

How many of us act the same, even if we “know better”? As recently as this week in early October, I found myself on the road on a short errand, with only my purse and a half-full or half-empty water bottle (depending on one’s perspective), wearing sandals, a t-shirt and shorts; no jacket. Living dangerously.

Are you starting to prepare or looking for hurricane safety tips? If so, start with one of the official sources of information, https://www.ready.gov/hurricanes. You’ll find substantive basic information about hurricanes, tips for preparing your home, and checklists that detail what to do in the days and hours prior to a hurricane. Ready.gov includes other important general preparedness steps that everyone should take prior to any disaster. For example, create a communication plan, assemble go kits with first-aid kits, gather longer-term supplies for sheltering in place, and sign up for geographically-targeted emergency alerts. You’ll also want to find good sources of local news and emergency information for your area.

I wrote earlier of “Teachable Moments,” as well as of those who might not even notice strong October Winds. Conversely, I often meet people who have gone above and beyond to get prepared themselves, and help others with the process. A key difference is that most of them began with small steps. They prioritized each task as a must-do, rather than as a should-do. They persisted in the effort until the actions became habit. Some found the process fun or empowering once they’d started.

I’ll revisit this topic again soon to share some additional preparedness considerations and insights. Meanwhile, stay safe!

Karen Berge

Karen Berge

I enjoy living in Seattle, where boating opportunities abound. My goal is to take advantage of them all!
Karen Berge

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