Friday, March 9, 2012

Disaster or Not a Disaster?

What exactly constitutes a disaster? What is it that turns an event such as an earthquake or a tsunami or a meteorite striking earth into a bona fide disaster? And if it is a "real" disaster, how do I take myself out of the equation?

Good questions, all of them.

Let me do a little role play to explain my thoughts on this topic. This will be kind of like playing chess against myself, because I'm going to fill in both sides of the conversation, alternately asking and then answering a series of questions. Okay, here we go.

Is a hurricane a disaster?


Is a tornado a disaster?

            No again.

Is an earthquake a disaster?

            I would say no.

Is a tsunami a disaster?


Is a drought a disaster?

            Why do you keep asking this silly question when the answer is always no?

Okay, how about a wildfire — is that a disaster? Or how about if a large meteor hits the planet…surely that would be a disaster, wouldn’t it?

I give up. You are obviously not paying attention. Hurricanes, tornados, blizzards, droughts, and floods are primarily meteorological events. Earthquakes and tsunamis are geological events. Wildfires…well, I’m not sure exactly how to categorize that one, but it is not a disaster. And a meteor hitting a planet, I’ll call that an astronomical event. Still not a disaster.

You’re nuts! You must have your head in the sand to not recognize all these events as disasters.

Well, let’s examine the meaning of disaster for a minute. All of the above-mentioned events can occur without causing the least bit of inconvenience for people. It’s only when people become involved in these events that it becomes a disaster. So, in my opinion, it isn’t the earthquake or tsunami or flood, etc. that is the disaster. YOU are the disaster, because it’s only when YOU (or other people) become caught up in one of these events that it becomes a disaster. It’s the old, “if a tree falls in the forest” question. If a tsunami hits the coast but there’s nobody there to notice, how do you call that a disaster?

            People are the ingredient that creates a disaster out of a purely natural event.

When the meteorite hit uninhabited Arizona 50,000 years ago (resulting in the world-famous Meteor Crater), it was no disaster because there was nobody there. Now, if a meteorite hits New York City tomorrow…that’s a disaster.

That makes sense.

I can say it another way — Cars don’t kill people…drunk drivers in cars kill people. Without the people (either behind the wheel or in the path of the car), the car can’t kill anybody.

The same concept applies to every sort of event that we commonly call disasters. If nobody’s there, it’s no big deal.

But obviously, in today’s world those types of events often impact populations. And the larger the population, the greater the disaster.  So, how do I take myself out of the equation?

Here’s something to think about — if a flood, wildfire or any of those other things swept through your neighborhood, how would that impact the people living there?

To help answer that question, I have a Big Ten list:
·      Housing
·      Food
·      Water
·      Warmth
·      Clothing
·      Medical supplies
·      Sanitary supplies
·      Communication
·      Transportation
·      Security

There is no doubt the loss of those things would have a dramatic impact on your life.

So, how do I survive such an event?

Personal preparation is the key. Don’t expect FEMA or anybody else to take responsibility for your personal welfare — that’s your job. 

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