Needing A Family Emergency Plan

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - September 21, 2005
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For the first time in a long time, I took out the phone book and looked for the emergency shelter in my area. Not surprisingly, it’s a school.

But what was surprising and what concerned me is that - post-Katrina - nothing looked quite safe enough.

We are so smug here in beautiful Hawaii. We have dodged many bullets, and the hurricanes and tsunamis that have hit us are now distant memories. The exception, of course, would be the folks on Kauai who are still rebounding from Iniki. They remember. And they probably can see more keenly than the rest of us how ill prepared most of us would be to survive a category 5 hurricane.

I flew to Kauai just a few days after Iniki hit - and I was bowled over by the sight. Lush, green Kauai was a flattened wasteland. Homes were shredded into kindling or were nothing more than pockmarked, debris-strewn shells. And the most heartening sound in Lihue was the roar of a generator.

Today I look back and shudder to think what a Katrina would do to us. What’s happening in Biloxi and New Orleans should make us all think. Are our shelters strong enough? Are there enough of them? How would we evacuate the poor, the elderly and the sick? What about communication? Would our first responders be able to talk to each other?

We already have answers to some of those questions, and the answers are not reassuring. We are not ready - not by a long shot. That’s bad.

But the good thing is, at least we are discovering just how unprepared we are.

All the mistakes made in New Orleans are valuable lessons to us here and to leaders across the U.S., and probably the world. Don’t you think all governments are watching our debacle and mentally ticking off their own level of preparedness should a disaster of this magnitude strike their own countries? Katrina’s sorry aftermath is a primer for emergency planners everywhere. We have been duly warned. It’s up to us to heed the warning and take appropriate action.

Now, that means we have to do our part, too. We need to have our own family plans and emergency kits in place (see Jerry Coffee’s excellent column from last week). Someone said to me, “but what good does it do to have three days worth of food - when the people in New Orleans waited a week or more?”

Well, think about it. That’s three days to regroup, to marshal your strength. Three days to assess your situation and come up with a survival strategy. Three days to find out who needs help and how to give it - and I don’t think we will see here in Hawaii the violence we witnessed in New Orleans. After Iniki, the one thing folks had in abundance was aloha spirit. Not to say we shouldn’t be prepared. Always plan for the worst.

Katrina has done something. It has made us think about the questions we have for our own leaders and the demands we should be making of them and of ourselves. That’s sure to make us all safer and savvier when - not if - the big one slams into our shores.

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