Emergency Preparedness Month: Preparing for the Worst Is the Best Way to Survive
Aug 28, 2020 12:55PM
September is Emergency Preparedness Month. The 2020 theme is “Disasters Don’t Wait. Make Your Plan Today.”
That’s especially good advice this year when wildfires are ravaging several counties in Northern California, two named hurricanes approached U.S. shores simultaneously from the Gulf of Mexico, and a derecho wreaked havoc in the Midwest.
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The hundreds of lightning-caused wildfires raging across California have burned through 1.2 million acres of land, an area roughly the size of the Grand Canyon. Six people are known dead and tens of thousands of residents have been evacuated, with nearly 700 homes damaged or destroyed.
Lightning-caused fires in California were documented in 1987, 1999, 2008 and 2018. However, the lightning-sparked fires in the Bay Area this year are especially menacing because in the span of a week, some of them merged to form two or three of the largest wildfires in state history.
According to Los Angeles Times reporter Bettina Boxall, “The enormous volume of lightning strikes — some 12,000 — and the number of ignitions — 585 so far — makes it impossible for firefighting crews to contain many of the fires before they blend together, forming monsters that can burn for weeks or even months before dying out.”
In Miami, The National Hurricane Center (NHC) was forecasting that Hurricane Marco would make landfall along the Louisiana-Texas coast by Monday evening and Hurricane Laura by Thursday morning.
But Marco rapidly lost wind speed and organization as it approached southern Louisiana and the NHC said Marco was no longer a tropical storm. Marco soon dissipated in the Gulf without threatening the coastal area.
Hurricane Laura, however, will make landfall as a major hurricane, with winds of around 115 mph and a storm surge up to 11 feet, when it is scheduled to strike near the Louisiana-Texas border late Wednesday or early Thursday, according to NHC projections, National Public Radio reported Tuesday morning. A hurricane warning is now in effect from San Luis Pass, Texas — just south of Galveston — to Intracoastal City, Louisiana.
While winds exceeding 100 miles per hour are likely, the greatest threat will be from flooding, especially for the residents in the New Orleans metropolitan area, which is mostly below sea level.
Derechos Are as Damaging as Hurricanes
In addition, a long-lived line of fast-moving thunderstorms with widespread straight-line hurricane-strength winds, called a derecho, left a path of destruction from Des Moines, to Chicago, to Indianapolis earlier this month. With winds reaching 112 miles per hour, the derecho pummeled Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for over half an hour. “Little property was spared, and at least four deaths have been blamed on the storm,” Yahoo Newsreported.
Over a week later, some communities were still without power. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds requested – and received – nearly $4 billion in federal aid to help 27 Iowa counties repair and rebuild after the storm destroyed or severely damaged 8,200 homes and 13 million acres of corn, about a third of Iowa’s cropland.
Activities to Equip You for Battling the Elements
So how do we protect ourselves and ensure we are ready for the elements? It’s important to be ready for both manmade, and natural disasters. Ready.gov has a weekly outline of activities to help you become equipped to battle the elements:
- Week 1- September 1-5: Make A Plan Talk to your friends and family about how you will communicate before, during, and after a disaster. Make sure to update your plan based on the Centers for Disease Control recommendations due to the coronavirus.
- Week 2 -September 6-12: Build A Kit Gather supplies that will last for several days after a disaster for everyone living in your home. Don’t forget to consider the unique needs that each person or pet may have in case you have to evacuate quickly. Update your kits and supplies based on recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control.
- Week 3 -September 13-19: Prepare for Disasters-Limit the impact that disasters have on you and your family. Know the risk of disasters in your area and check your insurance coverage. Learn how to make your home stronger in the face of storms and other common hazards and act fast if you receive a local warning or alert.
- Week 4 -September 20-26: Teach Youth About Preparedness-Talk to your children about preparing for emergencies and what to do in case you are separated. Reassure them by providing information about how they can get involved.
The goal is to provide resources to inform the public and to prepare for emergencies in homes, schools, businesses, and communities, while being mindful of health and environmental factors. Hurricanes, wildfires, and derechos are just a sample of the weather-related damages that can affect up to one quarter of the United States. These natural events, coupled with more common summer weather occurrences such as tornadoes, heat waves, and poor air quality, make living in any of the 50 states a challenge.
News coverage on weather awareness and protection is important to heed. However, most newscasts relegate weather a non-priority on active news days to a low spot on the broadcast lineup. So seek alternative ways to stay informed, such as apps that can transmit weather updates in real time on your cellphone. So be informed, be ready and stay ready. Your life may depend on it.
About the Author
Dr. Kandis Y. Boyd Wyatt, PMP, is a professor at American Military University, who has over 25 years of experience managing projects that specialize in supply chain management. She holds a B.S. in meteorology and an M.S. in meteorology and water resources from Iowa State University, as well as a D.P.A. in public administration from Nova Southeastern University.
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