Disasters change lives forever
In 2005, natural disasters killed more than 25,000 people and caused $ 57.7 billion in damage worldwide. In addition to the obvious direct impact of natural disasters (like a tornado destroying a house), there are usually many indirect effects. Although these effects may be less obvious, they are often more expensive and can add years to recovery time from a disaster. As people living in communities that have been devastated by natural hazards often say, “There is no complete recovery, disasters change people’s lives forever.”
Disaster mitigation is the first link in the disaster survival chain. Mitigation is the process of reducing the severity of the impact of natural hazards through planning. Each hazard requires a specific type of mitigation. In some cases, we can use engineered solutions. Earthquake resistant construction and devices to hold objects in place, such as anti-seismic straps, could at least reduce the impact of a natural hazard. In other cases, the only form of mitigation that is guaranteed to be successful is to limit or disallow human activities where the hazard occurs, such as floodplains, volcanoes, and high fire risk areas.
But sadly, in some cases, like Hurricane Katrina and the Asian tsunami, little or no planning or mitigation affected human life. These types of disasters have a profound impact on all of us. Prediction of natural disasters has improved enormously, but more work is needed. Protection against man-made disasters must continue in a logical, controlled and decisive manner.
The second link in the disaster survival chain is personal preparedness. Making plans for evacuation, having the correct survival supplies, such as food and water with a five-year shelf life, a flashlight that doesn’t need batteries, and a radio to stay connected to the outside world, is essential for all of us. It is suggested that each person have at least 72 hours of supplies. Statistically, the citizens of the United States are not prepared. Less than 40% of the population has a plan and fewer still have supplies. The list of items is overwhelming for some people and just knowing where to start can be a puzzle.
Disasters come in all their forms and change our lives. We have seen it first hand in recent years. Mitigation, preparedness, and prediction will reduce loss of life and property. Each of us must participate in disaster preparedness. Some people say “expect the unexpected”, but in reality we must anticipate the expected and prepare.