How Prepared Are We As a Nation?

Categories: In the News.

 

Survival StillThis past week I had an opportunity to attend a government conference on emergency preparedness in Atlanta, Georgia. In attendance were many local emergency response planners from across the US, as well as officials from the CDC, FEMA and other government organizations. I talked to many people and got some great insights into how prepared we are as a nation, both good and bad. Here’s what I took away from this event…

GREAT PEOPLE. I was very impressed with the people I met. We have to be grateful to the highly qualified, committed people who are working in this field. They take their jobs seriously, are well trained, and are more than willing to support other areas around the country as needed.

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Me with some new friends at the Preparedness Summit!

HUGE AND COMPLICATED. As a small business owner, I sometimes forget how huge our country is. Keeping the country prepared and ready for an emergency is a massively complex job; the number of government departments involved, software programs, product stockpiles, distribution challenges and tens of thousands of people.

OUR GREATEST STRENGTH. We have a number of things that contribute to the preparedness of our country, from the great people, to the excellent training programs and even our wealth, but there is one thing that is more important than everything else; our interconnectedness. The overarching strength of our country’s emergency response is the fact that if one place goes down, countless others can respond to help the affected area. This interconnectedness comes down to one thing: communications.

OUR GREATEST WEAKNESS. Unfortunately, this interconnectedness is also our greatest weakness. The entire system is built on the assumption that an emergency will be localized and that many other places will be able to respond. Take this ability away, and we’re in trouble. This points out our greatest vulnerability is our electric grid. Again, I recommend the book “Light’s Out” by Ted Koppel. This is certainly the most significant threat to our country.

ONE THING THAT SURPRISED ME. I talked for a long time to a gentleman who works for the FEMA and Homeland Security training program. This is the program that trains first responders and other emergency response personnel. What surprised me is that they did not train people on water or water contamination. Nothing. They didn’t even have water training on the curriculum.

TO SUMMARIZE. To summarize, I believe that we, as a country are well prepared for localized emergencies, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. but as Ted Koppel said in his book, “There are emergency preparedness plans in place for earthquakes and hurricanes, heat waves and ice storms. There are plans for power outages of a few days affecting as many as several million people. But if a highly populated area was without electricity for a period of months or even weeks, there is no master plan for the civilian population.”

Yes, there is a real need for individuals to be prepared for an emergency. Hopefully, you will never need it, but if you do take some simple steps to get your family prepared, you will greatly help your family, you will be in a position to help your neighbors, and you will be one less person that our national emergency response team needs to worry about.

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Comments

  1. Chuck

    Glenn: You are quite correct in your assessment of our state of preparedness. As far as local disasters go, I am quite prepared for any localized disaster including the 9.x earthquake predicted for the San Andreas Fault someday. The thing that is of the biggest concern is the possibility of an EMP attack by one of our “friends” or a CME event from the sun. Interestingly I am currently reading a book about the crusades that, from the language, was written either early in the 20th century or late in the 19th century. For instance the author uses the word “ambuscade” which is an older word that is now shortened to “ambush”. In any even, the author remarks that during the first crusade, the crusaders were advancing from the south toward Antioch, a city located in Northern Syria near its border with Turkey. He doesn’t indicate how far south of Antioch they were when they noticed a display of aurora borealis. That is quite far south and aurora borealis doesn’t normally appear that far south. I intimated from that mention that the crusaders were witnessing evidence of a CME event. Of course, the effect on earth was indiscernible and the author doesn’t make any further comment on it. He might not have connected aurora borealis that far south to a CME event. He might not have even been cognizant that such a phenomenon existed. It made me wonder how many more times the earth has experienced a CME event since man first started scrabbling across its surface. Those two possibilities plus a consolidated attack on our grid system are my biggest concerns for survival. It seems to me the only real preparation one can do for those two possibilities is to acquire as many life skills that were extent in the 17th century as possible. By life skills I mean how to care for and ride a horse; how to care for cattle and small farm animals; planting and growing without chemical support; tanning, blacksmithing, carpentry, candle making, spinning, weaving, canning, food preservation without canning, all the things that almost everyone knew how to do toward the end of the 1600s that we don’t know how to do today, For instance, when was the last time you killed, skinned and butchered a steer? When was the last time you actually made a steer out of a male calf? When was the last time your wife spun some wool into yarn and wove it into linsey-woolsey, the major cloth of the colonies in the 17th century? When was the last time you hitched a horse or mule to a plow and plowed 40 acres? While I can claim to having skinned and butchered small animals I have never skinned and butchered an animal as large as a steer and it has been close to 50 years since I threw a leg over a horse and I didn’t put on the bridle and saddle then. While my wife is quite a good seamstress, she has never spun or woven cloth although with her vast talents, I am sure if I provided a spindle and loom she would be cranking out yarn and cloth in nothing flat. Well, this ran on a little more than I intended. Nice to know that at least FEMA and the CDC talk a good fight even though so far their performance in Katrina and Sandy has been dismal. That’s the nicest adjective I can use for their performance.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful reply Chuck. Yes, the thing about an EMP is that even if it’s not done by a crazy person in power, it will happen someday from the Sun. The most famous one in the past 150 years was the Carrington Event, that fried telegraph lines in 1859. It didn’t affect people much back then because they all lived off the land. Today, such an event would be devastating.

  2. Shelia Worthey

    Thanks for that honest insightful update. Kind of shocking about the water. . . well as compared to other things like the grid which would be hard to update and that we can ultimately live without. I hope you enlightened them. 😉

  3. You’re right in that FEMA does surprisingly well with ‘local’ disasters, such as floods or hurricanes, but in the case of a very widespread disaster such as an EMP attack by some nut case little dictator on the west coast knocking down the power grid for several states, they will not be able to cope with that. And who knows why they always seem to miss some major point, such as coping with contaminated water, which even in situations like Katrina, they could only think of bringing in bottled water from other areas.

  4. Ron Koenig

    Virtually all jobs require electricity. Without electricity most people would be out of work. Without electricity the ability to bank and pay bills would be made harder. Without electricity, gas stations are unable to pump gas. On and on goes the list of things that we take for granted that would be curtailed or not available to us without electricity.

  5. Sam Randolf

    I think our greatest weakness is that people have become accustomed to expecting that the world owes them something. You know what I mean. “You deserve it,” or “Take what’s rightfully yours,” etc. What do you think will happen when, after a week of empty grocery store shelves, these same people realize that the government isn’t going to come riding to their rescue?

    For decades, people have been taught all about “their rights” with little teaching regarding their responsibilities. Do you think that, after such a disaster, when they suddenly wake up and realize that they were taken for a ride all these years they will simply adjust by becoming less selfish? No. We’ve all seen Black Friday videos showing people fighting and hitting each other over some items at 40% off. This, during normal times in a more joyful part of the year!

    I fear for this country and our attitudes toward one another. The government certainly hasn’t helped. Instead of teaching people how to fish, it just keeps giving them fish all while telling them that it is their right! At times like these, I remember what president John Kennedy said: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” We’ve come a long way, baby!

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