Sunday, October 4, 2009

And the Physical Aftermath

Urban survival situations, by nature, involve lots of people. It isn't like a wilderness survival incident in which one or perhaps a handful of individuals suffer. Urban catastrophes generally involve whole communities, and sometimes entire societies.

Take the recent earthquake in Indonesia as an example, but be aware that this identical situation could happen anywhere. I'm using Indonesia because it is still an evolving situation that is in the headlines today. It could as easily be St. Louis or Los Angeles.

According to reports out of Sumatra, here's what's happening in the aftermath of the destruction:
  • Search and rescue teams have begun to focus on retrieving the rotting bodies from the rubble. 
  • Lt. Colonel Harris, crew chief of a rescue team reported that, after 4 days of searching, it's almost impossible to find any survivors. 
  • He went on to say that the smell of decomposing bodies is very strong. 
  • The scope of the disaster is described by the National Disaster Management Agency: 83,712 homes destroyed, 200 public buildings destroyed, 100,000 additional buildings badly damages, 5 bridges collapsed. 

The earthquake and subsequent landslides were bad enough, but now with open sewers, broken water lines, and decaying corpses of people and animals, severe problems lie ahead in the form of disease. In a crisis of this proportion, often there are mass graves with burials being done by bulldozers for the simple sake of getting rid of the cause of disease among the survivors.

All the dignity and respect that are normally paid to the deceased are done away with, and life takes on an expedient nature. And that, only heightens the emotional burden for those who have lost loved-ones.

What can be done to help the living? Humanitarian aid organizations give broad-brush assistance, sending shelter, medical supplies, food, and trained workers to help move life back toward normal. A great example of a private company lending a hand when the 2004 tsunami struck Indonesia and surrounding areas, killing nearly a quarter-million and leaving millions of survivors in desperate conditions, was MSR ( sending 1,000 MIOX water purification units to assist in the relief effort.

What can you do personally? Get involved in an organization that contributes humanitarian aid to disaster victims around the world. And then take a look closer to home — your own home — and get started with an emergency preparedness plan for your household. Get involved with your community plan. The more self-sufficient you are in a disaster, the less burden you are on the relief organizations. As one survivor of the recent cyclone in the Philippines so wisely said, "By the time the government get here to help, it's already too late."

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