August is a long month. Somehow, 31 days in the heat and humidity of the hottest part of summer seems to drag along much more slowly for me than any other month on the calendar. The dog days of summer make me think of a large, panting dog laying in the shade, too hot and tired to do anything but just more laying around. It’s easy for you and me to keep wishing for more of the same, too — maybe not more of the heat and humidity, but more of the laying in the shade with nothing to do. Oh, it’s a dog’s life. [The dog days of summer are named for Sirius, the Dog Star, not named for the quiet summer life of a dog.]
Instead of living like a dog, we should be thinking like a squirrel. We have preparations to make. But the American Red Cross says that the vast majority of Americans have not taken even the basic steps to prepare for a catastrophe (hurricane or otherwise). Our government suggests that all of us need to be self-sufficient for at least three days, yet most of us couldn’t even do that.
And is three days really enough? Probably not. When disaster strikes it will take the federal government seven days to mobilize resources and deploy them to a disaster area, so what do you do between the time when your 3-day supply runs out and the time when the cavalry arrives four days later? Three days is really only a recommended minimum — something that’s better than nothing and relatively easy to do. It reminds me of the motorcycle safety class I took last weekend: to attend the class, they require students to wear long-sleeve shirts, long pants, over-the-ankle shoes and gloves (they provide the helmet), yet regular motorcycle riders know that these items are almost laughable because they’re so minimal. However, if they required more protective and stout gear most people would likely give up and not take the class.
Just as a commitment to motorcycling will require more serious riding gear, a commitment to emergency preparedness will take a more serious effort from all of us to not just be able to sit tight for three days, but to be self-sufficient for the week it may take for emergency resources to arrive. That’s a tall order, as most of us haven’t prepared for the minimum interruption of our everyday lives.
Even as we near the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season it’s not too late to make basic or more extensive preparations. You’re not worried that it’s too late to prepare, are you? It’s never too late. Perhaps you feel you’ve made it this far without having an emergency kit, so why start one now? Honestly, that’s what most people say. “I’ve never had a problem, my parents never had a problem, my neighborhoods never had a problem. Why should I bother?” Unfortunately, what’s already happened or not happened to others makes you no more or less likely to be thrust into the next catastrophe. It can happen to anyone, at any time and in any place. No American is immune from catastrophe, only less likely to experience certain types of catastrophe. Hurricane in Idaho? No. Wildfire in Galveston? No. Tornado in any state? Yes. Power outage, major gas leak or water main break in any community? You bet.
Fortunately, you don’t have to invent the wheel all by yourself. Preparedness tips and emergency kits are only a mere mouse click away. Here at YourWeatherBlog we’ve written about basic emergency preparations and the contents of emergency kits before (here, here and here). ImpactWeather has also hosted a series of popular ACP webinars featuring experts on not only this subject, but how to also help prepare your family, your business and even your employees for a worst-case scenario. You can view/listen to a couple of them here and here (understandably business-heavy, but fascinating just the same). Additionally, there are plenty of government and commercial sites devoted to guiding you through the process of how to prepare, what to buy and how to respond (Ready.gov, American Red Cross, Make It Through, Emergency Supplies USA, Be Prepared to name a few).
One of the more enjoyable aspects of my job is getting to visit many of our Gulf Coast clients each spring as I present ImpactWeather’s “Employee Hurricane Preparation” presentation. The interaction is always great and, without fail, I’m reminded that what I take for granted is sometimes not on the radar of most non-meteorologists or those not in the business continuity or emergency preparedness fields. For instance, I always see looks of “I never thought about it that way” in the audience when I say that the Atlantic Hurricane Season is from Memorial Day through Thanksgiving — fully half the year. I also see lots of heads nodding in agreement when I show a picture of vast empty shelves at Costco that would normally be stocked with cases and cases of water, but picked clean in the 72 hours prior to a hurricane making landfall (one gallon of water per person, per day; 28 gallons of water for a family of four for seven days). I talk about the lack of communication, how to safely use a generator, how to evacuate, how to prepare your house. I talk about what to put in your hurricane/emergency kit, and though most items are from established lists from FEMA and the Red Cross, some items are from my own experience — like Tabasco Sauce and painters’ plastic (my roof leaked during Hurricane Ike and the thin plastic sheeting protected rugs, couches and TV).
There’s always time to lie in the shade, but take this advice from a squirrel: begin (or continue) your preparations now. The 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season started with a bang: not only were there two named storms (Alberto and Beryl) out of the barn before the season even began but a record was set as, for the first time ever, there were four named storms by the first of July. ImpactWeather’s TropicsWatch team expected a lull in activity from later in June into August but cautioned that the 2012 season was still expected to be close to an average tropical season with 12 named storms, five hurricanes, two major hurricanes. Additionally, thanks to factors quite different than last year, more landfalling hurricanes on U.S. shores are expected.
Given the storms Chris, Debby, Ernesto and Florence, along with Alberto and Beryl, we should still have another six named storms and another three or so hurricanes. Stop on your way home today for a few cases of water. This weekend, visit Home Depot and Target to pick up a few more batteries and maybe an extra fuel container. After you put the kids to bed tomorrow evening, get online and visit one of the sites I mentioned above to order a couple of water bladders and First Aid kits. After you mow the lawn this Saturday, walk around your house and inspect the shingles and your fence (take a look at your neighbor’s fence, too). Before you know it, and without too much effort, you’ll have moved yourself from unprepared to someone who has taken the basic steps to being prepared for an emergency.
Check out the new hurricane safety app from the American Red Cross.